2016-09-02 / Sports

‘Baby B’ is now the boss

Senior captain sets the pace for Simi Valley girls’ cross country team
Jonathan Andrade


CONSISTENT RUNNER—Sammy Barajas is a senior captain for the Simi Valley girls’ cross country team. 
Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers CONSISTENT RUNNER—Sammy Barajas is a senior captain for the Simi Valley girls’ cross country team. Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Sammy Barajas has come a long way.

Barajas, a Simi Valley High girls’ cross country standout and the daughter of boys’cross country head coach Jorge Barajas, has even shed the “Baby B” nickname the boys’ team gave her as a rookie.

The name doesn’t suit Sammy Barajas, a senior captain who has stepped up as a leader on a talented team. She’s been consistent while the team tries to shake the injury bug.

“It’s a revolving door,” said Simi Valley girls’ cross country head coach Roger Evans of his varsity lineup. “The one stable one in there has been Sammy. She’s been here every day. She’s able to get the workouts every day, and it shows. She’s far above the rest of the girls.”

Evans said Barajas succeeds in the sport because she loves every aspect of cross country. She’s focused during training sessions; she takes care of herself away from the track, and she sees the importance of a strong team bond.

Fellow senior captain Catherine Masatani said Barajas is the ideal teammate.

“She’s definitely a leader,” Masatani said. “She genuinely cares about the team. She’s always at practice. She’s super dedicated.”

As a freshman, Barajas helped the Pioneers capture the school’s first CIF Division 2 State Championship by crossing the finish line in 18 minutes, 40 seconds.

She enjoyed an impressive junior campaign. She took second place behind former Moorpark star Michelle Magnani at the Coastal Canyon League finals. Barajas also reached the Division 2 finals.

She followed up with a strong spring season for the track and field team. She took third place at league finals in the 3,200-meter race before battling at the Division 2 prelims in the same event.


WALNUT AVENUE—Sammy Barajas trains with her fellow Pioneers. WALNUT AVENUE—Sammy Barajas trains with her fellow Pioneers. “She’s been able to set highstandard goals,” Evans said of Barajas. “She understands the road to that, which is diligence and hard work. She understands that, and she’s willing to put the work in, even on days when she’s feeling lousy. She perseveres through that. That’s a large part of her success.”

She gets a lot of her grit from her father, who helped Fillmore seize a Division IV state title in 1990 as a runner before graduating high school in 1991. Jorge Barajas, who ran two seasons at Ventura College, served as a Simi Valley assistant coach for three seasons before taking over as the boys’ head coach this fall.

He never forced his daughter to take up the sport, but he convinced her to try it at a young age.

“I hated it when I was 5, but one day something clicked,” Sammy Barajas said. “It’s been my whole life ever since.”

Jorge Barajas said he’s proud of his daughter, who has evolved into one of the most decorated distance runners in Acorn country.

“It feels great to see her continuing the passion we have,” he said. “She puts in a lot of work. She’s very disciplined and dedicated to the sport.”

The coach said he’s looking forward to watching his daughter put together a strong senior season.

“I’m hoping she excels and reaches her goals,” he said. “She wants to make it to state with her teammates. That’s one of the main goals.”

Sammy Barajas worked hard this offseason. Simi Valley traded quantity for quality this summer by focusing on speed workouts.

“I think it was really helpful because I can see the team getting faster,” she said. “I can see myself getting faster. I feel faster than last year. I feel pretty good going into the season.”

Barajas, who wants to study kinesiology in college, said a state title run would be the perfect end to her prep career.

She’s ready to lead the way for the Pioneers.

“I want to make sure all the hard work we’re putting in isn’t for nothing,” she said. “I’m more motivated to become even better than I am right now.”

CATCH UP WITH THE PIONEERS

Simi Valley’s girls’ cross country team wants to power its way back to the top of the Coastal Canyon League. Moorpark won the league crown in 2015.

“We were highly disappointed with last year’s performance,” head coach Roger Evans said. “We were lacking a little bit of that fight. We’re hoping to regain that.”

Seniors Sarah Winkler and Kaitlyn Wood are battling injuries, but the Pioneers hope the two talented runners will return soon.

Stephanie Pham, a junior, and sophomores Mackenna Smollen and Amber Caranchini are expected to produce some solid times this season.

Evans said Catherine Masatani, a senior captain, is a runner to watch.

“She’s been training off the charts this last month,” he said of Masatani. “She’s really coming on.”

Masatani has high hopes for the Pioneers.

“Everyone looks so much stronger this year,” Masatani said. “Everyone is bringing down their times.”

Email Jonathan Andrade at jandrade@theacorn.com.

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