Remembering 1987: Girls State Meet Progression

Saugus, Great Oak and Buchanan have 15 of the top 25 fastest girls team times in the 32-year history of the CIF-State Cross Country Championships with Great Oak owning nine of those. (Photos: Daniel Tyree, DeAnna Turner)

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This is the latest in a series of articles looking back at the 1987 CIF-State Cross Country Championships, the first in California.

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Marveling at the recent efforts by girls at the CIF-State Cross Country Championships over the past decade when we started the project reflecting on that first State Meet in 1987 -- it did not take long to realize that the performances of those first several years are shadowed by what we've seen in recent years.  

With that, we look back at how much the California girls have improved and progressed over these past 32 years of late November championship races on the 5K course at Woodward Park in Fresno.  

It all began in with the inaugural 1987 State Meet where Palos Verdes set the initial standard with a 94:37 team-time record while capturing the Division I title.  Hesperia presented the best trio in the state as they posted an admirable 94:44 team time for a third-place finish.

But Agoura became the standard-bearers by becoming the first girls team to break 94-minutes, accomplished in 1989.  Led by Deena Drossin's 17:27 victory, Agoura's 93:10 would stand as the record until their 1991 squad recorded a 93:06.  More impressive is the fact that this was their first elite squad without Drossin. Agoura owned the top three team times through the first 10 seasons, and was the only program to break 93:30.

The Ken Reeves-coached Nordhoff girls broke the 94-minute barrier (93:57) in winning the Division III title in 1995 while Yucaipa's state championship squad in 1997 threatened Agoura's record with a 93:08 team time.

The new standard was established when the women of Peninsula celebrated the new century with a new State Meet course record (93:03) in 2000.  Only two seasons later though, we witnessed a breakthrough as Sultana, coached by John Mahr, reached deep into the playbook for a dominating victory in 2002.  When the clocked had stopped, the Sultans had not only established a State Meet record, but their 91:58 broke the old record by over a minute!

Going into that 2002 State Meet, NO team had eclipsed the 93-minute barrier, and only five squads had dipped under 94-minutes! To put that in perspective, eight teams broke 93 minutes at the 2019 State Meet with five additional squads achieving the feat in 2018.

At the 2005 State Championships, Bob Sumner's Corona del Mar crew rolled to a 91:57 performance, eclipsing the previous record of 91:58 established by Sultana three seasons earlier. Annie St. Geme and her 17:20, 40-second victory paced the way for the Sea Kings.


Then came the Centurions of Saugus and legendary, recently retired head coach, Rene Paragas.  That program established a whole new precedent in obliterating the previous 91:57 standard. At the 2007 State Meet, the Saugus girls posted an astounding 90:49 in a performance for the ages ... or so we thought!  With much of that crew returning, Coach Paragas' girls stepped it to another level, running 90:06 a year later! Where the old 2005 meet record saw the scorers combine for a sub-18:24 average, this Saugus crew opened up the floodgates by averaging just over 18:01 per girl!

The bar was now set to a whole new height and the overall expectations of what girls could now do at the State Meet were heightened. After 19 State Meets, only Sultana and Corona del Mar had eclipsed the 92-minute barrier.  Since 2007, a mind boggling 36 squads have achieved the feat!

At that 2008 State Meet headlined by Saugus, one cannot overlook Dana Hills (91:10) and Torrey Pines (91:11), which also helped establish new standards.  In any other year, they would have shined atop the masthead!  Torrey Pines (SD) and Mira Costa (SS) added their names to the sub-92 minute club in 2009 but it was 2010 where Saugus would continue to blow away any previous expectations!

Just when many felt that their 90:06 performance of 2008 would remain untouchable for years, along came their 2009 group, which fell short of the record but put together a 90:26 performance to defend their State title.

The 2010 version of Coach Paragas' Saugus team made the Woodward Park 5K course look more like a flat, 3-mile downhill with a head-turning, seemingly-unobtainable 89:25 team time! The 18-minute standard for the Woodward Park course has always served as a symbol of greatness. That year, Saugus saw four girls achieve the feat while averaging 17:53 as a team!  

Paragas' program at Saugus had improved the State Meet record by over 2:30 (30 seconds per girl) in less than five years!  Saugus was the first program to break the 91-minute landmark four times, while in 2010, in trying to chase them down, head coach Renee Smith and her Mira Costa girls became the fifth school to break 91 minutes with their 90:44 runner-up performance.  



Determined to follow Saugus' lead, Great Oak head coach Doug Soles, unleashed his dynasty, moving the thermostat to another level in 2013. Headlined by Destiny Collins' 17:09 victory, Great Oak's squad just missed the Saugus standard by running to an 80:28. The Wolfpack program was just getting warmed up!

Capping off her senior year with another individual title, Collins led her 2015 Great Oak squad to another title but with a huge push from a determined group from Davis (SJ)! In the most competitive race in State Meet history, Great Oak held off a fast-charging Davis crew for a 44-46 victory while establishing a new team-time record of 89:13.  Davis rolled to an 89:33 team time that morning with FOUR girls under 17:55 while averaging 17:55 per scorer ... and they were second place!

To this day, Great Oak's 89:13 continues to serve as THE standard of elite excellence at the California State Championships. The 2015 version placed all SEVEN girls in under 18:20 in a feat that may never be matched!  We continue to shake our heads when researching Great Oak as 15 different girls have eclipsed the 18-minute landmark at the State Meet in the past 10 seasons!  

Great Oak's 2016 squad crossed with an 89:19 team time, once again, placing five girls all under 18:10 for the second season in a row. Like 2015, the Wolfpack held off another tough Davis squad that also broke the 90-minute landmark once again.  Two squads pushing one another to sub-90 minute performances in back to back State Meets - incredible!

Between 2013 and 2019, Coach Soles' Great Oak squads broke 91 minutes six times!  They own three of the four top State Meet team time performances ever along with six of the top 13.  Meanwhile, Saugus broke the 91-minute barrier from 2007-2010, which still places within the top 14 all-time.  


Aside from Great Oak, Davis Senior (SJ) is the only other program to break 90-minutes twice while Buchanan (CS) joined that elite group with their epic State title performance in 2019, running 89:46.

The Corona del Mar (SS) squad that established the State Meet record in 2005 -- they now sit outside the top 35 on the all-time list! A stunning 18 of the top 20 performances took place in the 2010s with five of the top seven recorded over the past five State Meets!

Whereas a 19-minute girl was crucial in establishing your squad as one of California's best on the Woodward Park course, that standard has been replaced by an 18:30 athlete. This continual development has not only been witnessed by the elite squads but all across the board.  

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Below, we highlight how ALL five divisions have progressed over the past 25 State Championships by taking the average time in five-year increments.  

Division 1 Girls10th place 25th place50th place 100th place
Division 2 Girls10th place25th place50th place100th place
Division 3 Girls 10th place 25th place50th place100th place
Division 4 Girls10th place25th place50th place100th place
Division 5 Girls10th place25th place50th place100th place
The first season
contested was 1996


At the 2019 State Meet where three squads recorded sub 91-minute efforts, Sage Creek established a Division IV record with an eye-popping 91:01 total to rank among the top 20 times in State Meet history! Impressive as that is, Sage Creek was only the fourth fastest girls team at the 2019 meet!

1) Great Oak - 89:13 (2015)
2) Great Oak - 89:19 (2016)
3) Saugus - 89:25 (2010)
4) Great Oak - 89:28 (2013)
5) Davis - 89:33 (2015)
6) Buchanan - 89:46 (2019)
7) Davis - 89:56 (2016)
8) Saugus - 90:06 (2008)
9) Great Oak - 90:26 (2017) 
9) Saugus - 90:26 (2009)
11) Great Oak - 90:35 (2019)
12) Mira Costa - 90:44 (2010)
13) Great Oak - 90:45 (2012)
14) Saugus - 90:49 (2007)
15) Newbury Park - 90:54 (2019)
16) Great Oak - 90:58 (2018)
17) Sage Creek - 91:01 (2019)
18) Davis - 91:02 (2013)
19) Buchanan - 91:05 (2017) 
19) La Costa Canyon - 91:05 (2010)
21) Dana Hills - 91:10 (2008)
21) Great Oak - 91:10 (2014)
21) Simi Valley - 91:10 (2013)
24) Torrey Pines - 91:11 (2008)
25) Great Oak - 91:29 (2010)



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Share your memories of the 1987 State Meet

Were you an athlete, coach, organizer who took part in the first CIF-State Cross Country Championships in 1987? We'd love to share your memories of that meet and that experience. Feel free to email