LBHS Cross Country

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Girls Capture Victory 

Strickland in a class by herself

Junior Natasha Strickland is beginning to fire on all cylinders, as she led Laguna Beach to an easy win in the Orange Coast League cluster meet.

Strickland showed she is the class of the league, posting a 19:37 over the three-mile course at Centennial Park in Santa Ana last Saturday, Oct. 2, a healthy 22 seconds ahead of Hunter Strodel of Costa Mesa, the only other girl to break the 20-minute mark.

The results gave Breaker Coach Steve Lalim a good look at the group of girls he hopes will make a run through CIF and on to state finals in November.

Going into the season, Lalim knew that Strickland was his top runner and that seniors Taylor Capobianco and Carly Savage would likely be in the top five. And while the two remaining spots were up for grabs, he predicted they were not out of reach for freshmen Audrey Rodriguez and Marlee Grosher.

Lalim proved right. Strickland, Capobianco (20:35, 7th), Savage (20:40, 8th), Rodriguez (20:50, 9th) and Grosher (20:59, 13th) combined for 38 points, 12 better than a much-improved Godinez squad. Costa Mesa was third with 68, Estancia had 79, and league newcomer Saddleback scored 117.

Meanwhile, the Godinez varsity boys knocked off Laguna by a score of 30-52. The fact that Breaker senior Matt Neev, who was coming off a season opening run of three straight wins, did not race, put the Grizzly’s victory into perspective.

The OCL season consists of two races on the same course: the cluster meet and the Nov. 4 finals. Laguna Coach Scott Wittkop chose to rest Neev in favor of the latter, more significant event. He also said that senior Aaron Swartz was not 100 percent and Alec Toro did not post an official time.

“When you add Matt Neev, Alec Toro and a healthy Aaron Swartz to the mix, we will have a really competitive top five,” Wittkop predicted via email.

Neev undoubtedly would have won the race. Whether Toro and a healthy Swartz would have made up the rest of the 18-point deficit is unclear. What is clear, however, is that Godinez presents a real challenge to Laguna’s hopes of winning a league title.

Still, Wittkop believes his guys, many of whom set personal records at the meet, are ahead of schedule in their training and will be ready for league finals and a run to CIF.

Making up the scoring five for the varsity Breakers were juniors Jeff White (16:13, 3rd) and Tyler Nichols (16:33, 7th), senior Aaron Swartz (16:57, 13th), junior Ryan Jones (16:58, 14th), and sophomore John Kimball (17:04, 15th).

Godinez edged out the Laguna girls 39-44 in the JV race. Breaker seniors Beverly Ronses (21:25) and Sophie Radach (21:43) took the top two spots, well in front of the third place finisher from Saddleback. Rounding out the scoring five were junior Hannah Jonus (23:14, 12th), and freshmen Anya Miller (23:21, 13th) and Stormy Harrington (23:35, 16th).

The JV boys scored 94 points to finish a distant third behind Saddleback (30) and Godinez (33). Kevin McQuaid led Laguna with a 17:13 to take third overall.

Laguna freshman Veda Rebollar (17:10) won the frosh/soph race to lead his team to a second place finish behind Godinez. Sophomores Kevin Tovar (17:30, 4th), Stone Riff (18:40, 13th) and Brendan Skinfill (19:13, 16th), and freshman Casiano Koprowski (19:27, 17th) rounded out the scoring five.

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