Laguna Beach High’s Eric Hulst Track and Geyer Field came alive last Saturday, as thousands of spectators, coaches and athletes ushered in a new era in the storied history of the Laguna Beach Trophy Invitational track and field meet. “We’re going to continue to build a quality meet and try to make it better every year,” said girls’ coach Steve Lalim.
Laguna Coach Red Guyer started the Trophy Invitational more than 75 years ago to give his athletes a chance to compete on a level playing field against a handful of other small Orange County high schools.
The small town meet grew in the mid-70s, when better athletes from bigger schools turned out to compete against Laguna’s legendary distance runner Eric Hulst, who won a state cross-country title as a junior and set national grade level records that stood for decades. He also won the World Junior Cross Country Championship as a senior, leading the U.S. team to victory.
The meet ended in 1983, but returned in 2010, when Lalim and boys’ coach Scott Wittkop revived the long forgotten Laguna tradition and convinced district officials to name the school’s track after Hulst. The two coaches also named a race in his honor. This year, 30 girls and 29 boys competed for Laguna in the fourth annual Hulst Memorial 3200. “Athletes take a lot of pride in running in that event,” said Lalim.
Only four years after its revival, the Trophy Invitational welcomed more than 1,500 athletes and coaches from 32 southern California schools across the top four CIF divisions. To put the talent of the field in perspective, 11 athletes from five schools combined to break 10 meet records. “I am very proud to play a role in the return of the Trophy Invite,” said Lalim. “It’s a great event for our high school, our track and field program, and our community.”
“Steve Lalim and I work very well together and have the same vision,” echoed Wittkop. “We also have parents that give a lot of time and support. We could not run the meet without them.”
Division four Laguna held its own against many of the larger schools. The girls’ 4×400 varsity relay team, seeded fifth coming in, blew away the competition. “I knew we’d do well,” said Lalim. “Our goal was to break 4:10.”
Janie Crawford, Natalie Kimball, Joanna Abarca, and Brielle Budroe combined to run a blistering 4:08.26, crushing second place Dana Hills by more than 4.5 seconds. “That’s a great time,” said Lalim. “We’re only gonna get faster.”
Crawford, a sophomore, was one of only two runners to break the minute mark in the 100m, finishing second with a time of 59.39. And she showed her versatility by taking fifth in the triple jump with a leap of 32 feet 10 inches.
For the third time this season, four pretty good football players, Spencer Anderson, Robert Clemons, Nathan Lancaster and Drake Martinez, broke the school record in the 4×100 relay. Their time of 44.15 earned them a fifth place finish against some top D-I schools.
In his first year of track, Nebraska football recruit Martinez ran a personal best 11.38 to win the final heat of the 100m, earning him a second place overall finish against some talented sprinters. Lancaster, a junior, took fourth in the 200m with a time of 23.41, and sixth in the 100m with a time of 11.63.
Although no Laguna athlete, girl or boy, competes in the event, organizers decided to re-introduce pole vault to the meet to attract some of the larger schools, like Dana Hills and Orange Lutheran. The school borrowed a pole vault pit from Mission Viejo High, and a team of volunteers spent hours setting up the intricate apparatus in one corner of Geyer Field.
Kevin Stull of Orange Lutheran celebrated the triumphant return of the crowd favorite event with a meet record vault of 15 feet 3 inches. Sierra Hansen of Dana Hills missed the girls record by one inch, clearing 10’ 6” to win.
Freshman Coco Putnam was runner up in the girls 300m hurdles with a time of 49.76. She also clocked a 1:02.37 to take fifth in the 400m. Freshman Charles Warner cleared 5’8” to take third in the frosh/soph high jump.
It takes a lot of time and an army of volunteers to plan and stage the Trophy Invite; still both coaches enjoy the experience. Wittkop says he sometimes gets a chance to hear former athletes tell stories of past Trophy Invites. “I hope that the athletes that are competing now can look back and have the same positive memories,” he said.
Visit www.trophyinvite.com for a complete list of results.
Photos by Robert Campbell