Proven winner looks to go out on top at state

During her days as a Saugus High Centurion, winning became second nature for Brianna Jauregui.

And not much has changed during her decorated two-year tenure with the Glendale Community College program.

"We go places and I hear people saying that's the girl from Saugus," Glendale college Coach Eddie Lopez says. "She doesn't realize that everywhere we go, people recognize who she is from what she's done [at Saugus] and what she's done at Glendale.

"She knows what it takes to win, so the girls look up to her."

Thus, when Jauregui sets foot upon the familiar course of Woodward Park in Fresno today at 10 a.m., she will do so looking to accomplish the rare feat of winning a fifth consecutive state title.

During her standout career at Saugus, Jauregui was part of a Centurions squad that won three straight Foothill League titles, three straight CIF Southern Section Division II titles and three straight CIF-State Division II crowns. Upon her arrival at Glendale in 2009, the Lady Vaqueros continued their dominance of the Western State Conference, followed with another in a string of Southern California championships and capped it off with a California Community College Cross-Country Championship in a junior college-course record time of 92 minutes 18 seconds.

But while GCC dominated last season, it enters this morning's race as an underdog with favored Southwestern having won the Southern California championship.

"[I am] really used to winning," says Jauregui, one of two GCC runners to return from last season's state-winning top five. "Our main goal is to win that state championship. If we lose, it's gonna be a different experience."

Thus, Jauregui finds herself on the unfamiliar ground of entering a state-title race with doubt in her mind. Yet, she was quick to point out after this season's second-place finish at SoCal that, while all her teammates were severely disappointed, the year's biggest race was still to come and whether the Vaqueros are underdogs or not, Jauregui's never been one to let a run get away from her without a fight.

"She's extremely competitive," says GCC teammate Keri Molt, who ran on the same three Saugus state-titlist squads as Jauregui."Very, very competitive. She's competitive in practice. She's one of the strongest competitors I've known."

Despite her present competitive nature, Jauregui — the Vaqueros' top finisher at the SoCal championships — didn't like running all that much when she first started in middle school.

"I never really expected to be a runner," she recalls.

But Jauregui joined the Saugus cross-country team as a sophomore to give it one more shot and the rest is quite a large chunk of California cross-country history.

"I got to know the team and I just liked it," Jauregui says. "Then I just fell in love with running ever since."

And ever since, she's been one of the best of the best.

In addition to Katie Dunn, Nina Moore and Molt, Jauregui has been part of an influx of Saugus High talent running for Glendale college thanks largely to Lopez' friendship with Centurions Coach Rene Paragas and his staff.

"When their coaches are helping us and sending them to us, that helps us a lot," Lopez says. "Our thing is not to mess them up."

After last season's success at Glendale, clearly, nothing has been messed up. But for Jauregui, along with Molt, Saugus is never far away, as both still live there and often see former teammates and coaches.

"I think it's just that reinforcement," Molt says. "It's always in our mind."

Always in their mind is an ingrained desire and expectation to the best, or perhaps better yet, be a part of the best team.

"She wants the individual stuff, but she cares more about the team," Lopez says. "She's helped us reach the level we're at."

It's an aspect of Jauregui's makeup that has no doubt been a valuable component in the astounding accomplishment of being part of a state-championship team in every season she has run cross-country leading into today — her final race as a Vaquero.

"I try and make sure the girls don't go the wrong direction and put the team first," Jauregui says. "I just focus on the team first. That's basically been my main focus is [to] help the team out. Cross-country is a team sport, it's just not an individual sport.

"All of these girls are amazing. I love my team."

And so it goes that Jauregui is driven to be the best with the desire to make her team the best.

"I think she carries a lot of pressure on her to be the best," Molt says. "I don't necessarily think she feels she has to win everything. I think it's just making sure to do the best that she can and being the best that she can be. That's why she works so hard."

While it remains to be seen if Jauregui is to go out the winner she has always been, it's a relatively safe assumption that she will leave behind her not just a string of accomplishments and victories, but a way of doing things right, a way of winning.

"We can always count on her to come through," says teammate Vivian Ochoa. "We know that she's one of our best runners and she doesn't give 100%, she gives 110%.

"She gives a lot of her time to the team. She sets the example for the freshmen."

An example of winning that began before her days at Glendale, but that has carried on and, like Jauregui, show no signs of slowing.

"There's a lot of good teams out there," she says, "but coming from Saugus, you pretty much expect to go out there and win every race."

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