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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Catching up with Saugus Senior runner, Samantha Ortega

Today we chat with the unquestioned leader of the top ranked Division 2 team in California, Saugus senior, Samantha Ortega (photo courtesy of Dean Lofgren). She got her start in running toward the end of XC season as a freshman and has not looked back since. She finished in 2nd place as a sophomore at the CA state meet leading her team to their 7th consecutive state team victory and finished in 3rd place last year as Saugus finished 2nd as a team. She will be the favorite to claim her first state individual title this year following her fine efforts at Woodbridge and the Roy Griak Invitational in Minnesota. Ortega favors XC over TF but has very competitive times around the oval with 4:57.12 and 10:26.39 personal records.

1) How did you get your start in running? Did you have running experience before high school?
My start in running wasn't necessarily normal and I started in high school. First off, I didn't plan on coming to Saugus since I planned on going to a different high school for certain college credits. At the time, I was a Class A couch potato but ended up at Saugus and in regular PE. My PE teacher noticed how well I would run laps around the track and asked why I wasn't on the Cross Country team. I wasn't on the team because I didn't know what Cross Country was which is ironic enough! So I did our league finals after two to three weeks of training and placed 9th in the Frosh/Soph race. To be honest, I didn't understand what any of it meant. I just ran! But from then on, it was Track and XC for me!

2) What was the first race that you remember in your high school career that gave you the confidence that you can run with the best runners in the state?
I can't really pinpoint one race which gave me that kind of confidence. It was more a season that gave me that confidence for the next which turned out to be my Sophomore XC season. All the races in that season were full of uncertainty and I truly did not have confidence until after that season ended.

3) Who were the older runners that you looked up to as a young runner on the Saugus team? What did you learn from them?
When I was on my first state team, the biggest role models for me were the seniors, Katie Huntington, Heidi howler, Olivia Alteri, Nina Sassano, and Alex Hill. The longer I was on the team, the more alumni I met such as Shannon Murakami, Stephanie Bulder, Nina Moore, Amber Murakami, Annie Randall, Katie Dunn, Karis Frankian, Kaylin Mahoney and Marrissa Kado. Okay, generally all the former state XC girls! Each one of them is a role model to me, even today. From all of them, I learned to be tough, smart, dedicated, hard-working and most of all run with heart!

4) Reflecting back to your sophomore and junior seasons in cross country, what are your proudest individual and team accomplishments?
My proudest team accomplishments include our 2012 league, CIF, state, and national team titles/qualifications. As far as individual accomplishments go, the only one I have is my Footlocker All-American honors! I definitely hold my team accomplishments higher than anything!

5) What about your track and field seasons?
Personally, I prefer XC but I'm proud of our win in the 4x1600 at Mt. SAC in 2013 as well as most of our relay victories and my 3200 races at the Arcadia Invitational.

6) Now that you are a senior, what do you feel have been the biggest areas that you have improved as a runner?
As a runner, I feel the biggest area I have improved in are my endurance and leadership. I don't think I've changed much as a runner to be truthful sooooo ummm yeah!:)

7) Tell us a little about your coach and how he has helped you develop into the runner you are today.
Haha, the things Coach {aragas has taught me are endless. But, I think some of the best things he's taught me are to not be afraid of challenges, that nothing is impossible, being tough can take you far, and dedication and hard work keeps your goals within arms reach!

8) Saugus has been one of the premier cross country programs in California. What do you think are the keys to that success? 
I think the key to our success simply does not lie in the hard work, great coaching or talented runners. I think the key to our success comes from a common goal wanting to be achieved not by 7 individuals but 7 teammates. We are all here to work together and for each other which allows us to do things we never thought we could.

9) What does a typical training week look like for you with a Saturday Invitational? Distance of longest run? Morning runs? Any workouts that are repeated through season? Weight training?
A typical training week would be two workouts, two recovery runs, one easy run and a long run. A long run can range from 12-16 miles. And three days of weight training. Workouts are repeated but not all the time.

10) Favorite XC course? Mt. SAC
Favorite XC Invite? Mt. SAC
Favorite XC workout? Mile repeats
Favorite distance run? ummm long run
Favorite opponent(s)? Everyone is my favorite opponent. I think competition is healthy and fun.
Favorite team traditions? Making T-Shirts, pasta dinners as well as Big Bear and pre-race meetings.
Favorite track event? 3200m.
Favorite Track Invite? Arcadia Invitational
Favorite track workout? Repeat 1000s

11)  You have been part of state championship and NXN qualifying teams. Aside from achieving similar accomplishments, what else motives you daily and/or during the season?
The biggest thing that motivates me is my team. They work hard so we can win, and I reciprocate it. We all want to see our team succeed so it's a great motive we can all relate to as a team.

12) Anything else you would like to add.
Ummm nothing I can think of!

Thank you for your time Samantha! AJC

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