Cross Country: Depth strength for Laguna boys

A week's retreat in Utah has refined and replenished the Laguna Beach High boys' cross-country team, which is approaching the final two weeks of preparations for its 2014 season.

The Breakers went to Grover, Utah, last week for a retreat that served as the background for team challenges and building camaraderie, Coach Scott Wittkop said.

Wittkop termed the excursion an "amazing" experience for his team.

Six runners return to the program for the 2014 season, a year after the team went undefeated in winning the Orange Coast League championship and took second place in the Division 4 team standings last November at the CIF State Cross-Country Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno.

"We are a very tight squad with amazing work ethic and have had a great summer of preparation," Wittkop said of his current team. "We have a lot of depth on our team. Our 1-through-4 (runners) are very solid and 5-through-9 are improving daily."

Summer workouts began in mid-July at El Morro School in Laguna Beach in preparation for the new season.

Wittkop called his 2014 group the "strongest, deepest" team he has coached.

'Staying healthy will be the most important thing this year,' he said. "The boys have had great success in the past so they know how hard they must work to repeat that success."

Laguna has won the OCL title four of the past six years, and has reached the CIF State Cross-Country Championships in eight of the past 10 years.

The Breakers again are considered the front-runner for the league title in 2014.

"We should be favored to win league this year," Wittkop said. "Costa Mesa has some strong runners and Saddleback looked really good in track."

Laguna opens its season Sept. 5.

2014 Laguna Beach

Boys' Cross-Country

League: Orange Coast

CIF Division: Division 4

Head coach: Scott Wittkop (6th year)

2013 league finish: Orange Coast League champion

2013 CIF results: CIF State Cross-Country Championships (2nd-place)

Returning varsity runners: Cameron Zuziak, Sr.; Liam Corrigan, Sr.; Grant Barton, Sr.; Mason Pitz, Jr.; Drake Butler, Jr.

Returning lettermen: Six

Returning with honors: Cameron Zuziak (all-league, All-CIF); Grant Barton (all-league); Mason Pitz (all-league); Drake Butler (all-league).

Varsity newcomers: Penn Nielson, Jr.; Carter Fraser, Jr.; Sterling Marshall, Jr.; Jake Mangus, Soph.

The competition: "We have set our schedule to peak at CIF and State," said Wittkop, who said his team's top two invitationals this fall are Sept. 13 at Little Falls, Minn., and Oct. 11 at Clovis.

2014 Schedule

Sept. 5: Seaside Invitational (JV, frosh-soph.)

Sept. 11: Lucky Lindy XC Invite (Little Falls, MN.)

Sept. 19: Woodbridge Invitational (JV, frosh-soph.)

Sept. 24: Orange Coast League Cluster (all levels)

Oct. 11: Clovis Invitational (varsity, frosh-soph.)

Oct. 17: Orange County Championships (JV, frosh-soph.)

Oct. 24: Mt. SAC Invitational (JV, frosh/soph.)

Oct. 29: Orange Coast League Cluster (all levels)

Nov. 15: CIF Southern Section Prelims (varsity)

Nov. 22: CIF-SS Finals (varsity)

Nov. 29: CIF State Championships

Twitter: @MikeSciacca

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