Ranked fifth in CIF entering post-season, the Laguna Beach High boys cross country team proved they are legitimate contenders for a state title, taking home the runner-up hardware at CIF finals last Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut. Junior Cameron Zuziak captured all-CIF honors, finishing ninth overall with 15:42. It was the second fastest time in school history on the Mt. SAC course.
And even though the number one ranked girls were a little off their game, they finished fourth, which mean both teams will travel to Woodward Park in Fresno for state finals on Saturday, Nov. 30. It’s the first time since 2009, when the boys won their third title and the girls finished fifth, that both teams qualified for state.
The boys’ runner up performance surprised many, but not Coach Scott Wittkop, who boldly predicted before the race that his team had a good chance to win it all. And they almost pulled it off, finishing only nine points behind Xavier Prep.
Wittkop kept his team fresh and healthy by scheduling fewer races and giving key runners time off throughout the season. It proved to be a winning strategy, as Laguna’s first four finishers ran personal best times on the hilly, 2.93-mile course, one of the toughest in the country.
Following Zuziak was senior Casey Koprowski, who finished 15th overall with a time of 16:04. Sophomore Mason Pitz was next for the Breakers with a 16:29, followed by senior Veda Rebollar (16:30) and junior Grant Barton (16:44). Senior Ian Ring (17:15) and sophomore Drake Butler (17:24) finished sixth and seventh for Laguna.
Coach Steve Lalim started all of his top runners for the first time this season, but none established a new PR. The girls will have to regroup and bring their A-game to Fresno if they want to realize their season-long goal of capturing the program’s first state title.
Freshman Kirsten Landseidel set the pace for the girls with a 19:05, finishing 15th overall. She was followed by junior Brenna Merchant (19:28), sophomore Pearl Shoemaker (19:36), junior Natalie Kimball (19:51) and senior Eliza Romero (20:06). Junior Janie Crawford (20:12) and freshman Greer Jacobs (20:16) finished sixth and seventh.