Saugus Cross Country and Track Coach Rene Paragas Retires


Photo Courtesy of DyeStat

Students on the Saugus High School track and cross country team gather for a photo with Coach Berns and coach Paragas.

Ryan Vasquez, The Scroll, News and Sports Editor

“A legend is not a word you throw around loosley,” said Saugus Coach Kevin Berns. Saugus’ former cross country and track coach, Rene Paragas has retired from coaching at legendary status among his peers and athletes. “I would definitely consider Coach Paragas a legend,” said Samantha Ortega, former Saugus Cross Country  runner and All American Athlete to The Scroll. Legends never die but no one said that they could not retire. 

After 16 years of remarkable coaching, Saugus history teacher Rene Paragas has retired from his career of coaching at Saugus. Early into the summer Paragas gave his letter of resignation to Principal Vince Ferry ending his long time spent coaching the teams of Saugus Cross Country and Track. Paragas remains at Saugus as a Modern Civilizations and AP World teacher for 10th grade. 

Paragas has led his team through countless triumphs and has helped train some of the most well known athletes in California. He is strongly known for the constant success that follows his girls team year after year. 

Paragas ran competitively for a number of years at Hart High School where he was coached by Jim Blankenship and then continued to run competitively at Cal Poly University. He has been coaching for 16 years at Saugus and has spent a total of 20 years coaching in all. Last year, the varsity girls team placed third at state on November 30th.

 Some of the athletes Paragas has coached include Samantha Ortega and Mariah Castillo, who placed third at Nike Cross National in 2017. Castillo was also recently voted as California’s top girls distance athlete of the decade by Milesplit. “All of my teammates and my coach inspired me to keep pushing forward and supported me on this new path that I had begun to lean towards,” Ortega stated in an interview with DyeStat.

When it was announced that Paragas had retired Ortega told The Scroll that she was “both surprised and not surprised” about his decision. She added, “[Paragas] had been [coaching] for a long time and is a phenomenal coach and, but I’m happy for him.”

Coach Paragas was always wanted the best for his athletes. He believed that without a mutual understanding between an athlete and a coach, an athlete cannot succeed.  In talking with Ortega it’s clear that he has a connection with his athletes and “he was like [a] parental figure and cared so much”.

Cross country is a challenging sport but the toughest part of the sport is the “mental toughness” Paragas told The Scroll. “Most athletes give up before they reach their goals” but “the best part of the sport is that it teaches you discipline, patience and teamwork,” said Coach Paragas . “When people think of me, they will remember that I gave my best all the time and never made excuses.” His dedication not only comes through in the achievements of the Saugus Cross Country team over the years but in his athletes as well. “As a Coach he was extremely invested in every part of my training and running career as an individual and as a team,” said Ortega.

Paragas created a legacy of runner’s in which he has won ten state titles and has sent both teams and athletes to Nxn or Nike Cross Nationals. Paragas said he is “very proud of the teams and athletes that have represented Saugus. A generation of Saugus athletes dedicated themselves for something that can only be achieved together.” This legacy has been cultivated greatly but the sense of comradery that surrounds the athletes on the cross country team. “That sense of team is why alumni still come around and run with the team, visit, and support Saugus XC to this day” said Paragas.

Paragas has had a great impact on Saugus athletics “that really put Saugus athletics on the map,” stated Saugus principal Vincent Ferry.  Paragas is known throughout the state and the nation for his coaching: “What people don’t realize is the impact he’s had nationally on xc he is revered as the best of the very best in the cross country world and something like him is hard to replace,” Ferry told The Scroll.

Paragas is a leader in the coaching community “he’s irreplaceable, he’s on the Mount Rushmore of coaches in California. [he is]  just … phenomenal,” said Ferry. Paragas admits that coaching can take a toll on a person’s physical and mental health but the best part about coaching  is “seeing young people achieve things they never thought possible. Seeing them go to college and become successful in life.” His dedication is seen from his athletes and his administration and coworkers. “I think we always reflect on the ten state titles that he won which is unparalleled and  we also look at the national rankings that he has Saugus in every single year but the piece that I’m always impressed by is that he developed athletes that learn how to set goals how to take actionable steps to achieving those goal and creating athletes with mind set that they can do more than they thought the could ever possibly do,” stated Ferry.

As for the future of Cross Country, Saugus history teacher and Coach Kevin Berns will be the head coach for the cross country team. He has worked with Paragas for many years and shows a definite passion for the sport and that athletes “ I know Coach Berns will do a great job,” Ferry told The Scroll. Berns will be assisted by coach Baxter Frick, who is also a history teacher at Placerita Junior High.

“He’s basically my right hand man. A lot of things will funnel through him as we make decisions together” Coach Berns told the Scroll. Coach Berns has been coaching with Paragas for four years “Coach Paragas and I have known each other for a while. I’ve been with him for four years and prior to that I always looked at him from afar and I always looked at us as having very running and coaching philosophies. So when he asked me to come over to me it was a no brainer to me it was something that I knew from the benefit of the athletes that I’d coaching would be helpful I’d be able to learn from him you know with the idea of taking over the program so basically he’s my mentor, not basically he is” said Berns. Berns added that he “ one hundred percent” believes coach Paragas is a legend. “there is a difference between being a legend and upholding a legacy,

Coach Berns talked to the Scroll about the upcoming season and how it would be different now that he is head coach. “It’s a nervous excitement I’ve been in this position before you know I’ve run a program before […] I’ve learned from Paragas and learned from his mentors because you know we all have the same mentors and […] you hoped that you’ve’ learned enough to run a successful program”.

As for the future season and the program Berns said that as coaches they look at the big picture and work backwards from there and for the athletes .“The sky’s the limit,” he said, For Saugus, Berns commented, “you are put in a position to continue that legacy to continue what has been built and you have the responsibility and  you want to make sure that everybody who we have certain expectations here and the expectation has been set by precious runners.”

“It’s obvious the impact Coach Paragas has had on our school with cross country[…]he’s  going to be missed[…]you can’t say thank you enough to him,” stated Ferry.