Capistrano Valley girls cross country runners from left: Haley Herberg, Ashley Licata, Kayla Tresser and Alyssa Bautista. Sayles.

OCVarsity girls cross country preview

Capistrano Valley ready for any challenge


The way the Capistrano Valley cross country program was viewed started to change the moment the Cougars challenged the way they saw themselves.

“Challenged” is the operative word.

It’s a philosophy that longtime Cougars coach Ken Sayles hopes will continue to pay dividends as his girls team reaches for new heights this season.

“My belief is that you won’t be state champions unless you decide to be,” Sayles says. “For many years as a coach, I’ve been challenging my athletes to think that way. Several years ago, we decided to think that way.”




Sayles looks for ways to get his team to embrace its training regimen. Every workout and run gets the team closer to its goals.

With back-to-back Orange County Championships in their pocket, it appears the Cougars have taken their coach’s message to heart.

“If we’re nailing all of our workouts and we’re sticking together to do that, then that will get us to where we want to be,” senior captain Ashley Licata said. “Hopefully, we will repeat again as OC Champs.”

If Capistrano Valley defends its crown at the county showcase this year, it will accomplish something that has been done once prior. Esperanza (2001-2003) is the only girls team to win three consecutive county titles since the meet began taking place at Irvine Regional Park in 1999.

The Cougars graduated key contributors last season in Rebecca Deitch, Grace Schafer and Mikaela Mulhall. That kind of turnover would send most programs back a step, but Sayles does not believe that will be the case for his team.

“If we’re fortunate on the health front, it might end up that we are faster,” he said. “We are waiting for the opportunity to step up.”

Licata and sophomore Haley Herberg are the top returners for the Cougars.

Alyssa Bautista could be a big addition if she can bounce back from an injury-plagued freshman year. Her times were comparable to Herberg’s in the grade-level races at the start of last year, and she possesses the competitive spirit to dig deep on race day.

“She’s got kind of a chip on her shoulder,” Sayles said. “She missed out on big races last year in CIF and state meet. I think she is very determined to make her own place in that.”

Kayla Tresser is the fourth member of a quartet the Cougars feel strong about. The senior has been on the brink of breaking into the team’s scoring group her entire career, and it is her turn to step into the fold.

Sayles is calling this “a year of opportunity” with individual spots needing to be filled and his team chasing history.

“We have a chance to be something historic, three-time Orange County Champions,” he said. “We have a chance to be a CIF or a state champion if everything goes well for us.”

The Cougars were runners-up to Saugus in the CIF state meet last year. Their division is deep again, but Sayles contends that if his team is healthy, it is one of about five teams that could win the state title.

Seniors Maily Wong and Cami Monteroso are considered the favorites to round out the Cougars’ rotation.

With their season beginning today at the Laguna Hills Invitational, the Cougars are excited to seize the opportunities in front of them.

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