By George Gore Browne, Special to the Independent
Fifty local youth participated in the annual Orange County Track and Field Championships recently, the highest participation by Laguna Beach athletes in 25 years.
Nearly a quarter of the team earned top-four finishes in various track and field events at the Laguna Hills High School meet earlier this month. Christopher Drews, Rudy Danner, Troy Foster, Zachary Menter, Finley Flanagan, Maya Voss, Maija Shaw, Maddyn Tyrell, Mitzi Ostrick, Dax Wilson, Christain Guerrero, Natasha Sorensen, Auston Hutcheon, Camden Dowers, Jack Miller and Finnegan O’Kane have now all qualified for the Southern California Championships in Downey, Sunday, June 5.
“We are grateful to the city of Laguna Beach and Coach Fred to getting these kids ready for the event and fostering their passion for track and field,” said Marc Ostrick, parent of a long-jumper, Mitzi, who benefited from training alongside longtime track coach Fred Pichay.
To qualify for the May 1 county meet, children first competed in a city meet, which was held in March. The Southern California Municipal Athletic Federation, an alliance of city recreation departments, organized the Laguna Hills event.
Laguna recreation department supervisor Alexis Braun credits the high turnout to multiple parent volunteers who helped spread the word about the local track meet. She said the city’s community services department, who are responsible for recruiting a local team, also relied on social media to better promote the event than in previous years.
The popularity of track grows locally because the city has produced some great runners, Braun said.
The city team, comprised of boys and girls 5 to 14, trained three times a week with Pichay in April. They practice running and long jump while building overall strength and fitness, said Pichay, a 30-year track and field coach who also assists the high school team.
In the four weeks he was able to spend preparing the city team, he concentrated on safe and efficient technique as well as basic race strategy. “I trained them how to pace themselves,” said Pichay.
The team allows children to try out different track and field disciplines and prepares them well for high school competition, added Pichay, who is currently coaching the young athletes that qualified for the regional meet next month.
George Gore Browne is a journalism student and Indy intern.
This story was amended May 16.