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The race is on

Mike Sciacca

The last time the Laguna Beach High cross country team won a

league championship was in 1989, when Dave Brobeck was a junior on

that squad.

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That same team, which had Earl Towner as an assistant coach, went

on to win the 1989 Division III state championship.

Fast forward to 2002. Brobeck is still with the program, now as

head coach of the boys’ team. Towner also is back, returning from a

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four-year absence from coaching to lead the girls’ program.

“I am probably most excited about this season because I have lured

Earl, my coaching mentor, back into the fold,” Brobeck said. “Our

history goes back to 1989 when I was a pimply, 16-year-old junior at

Laguna Beach High and Earl helped guide our team to the state

championship. We lost touch until I was hired on as an English staff

member in 1998.”

Brobeck said that it was then that Towner decided he had had

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enough of coaching and made the move to live in Calgary, making way

for Brobeck to become the figure head of the school’s cross country

program.

Brobeck has coached the Laguna Beach boys’ team for the past five

years and the girls’ team, off and on, he said, during that same

time.

“Despite having considerable success with both the boys’ and

girls’ programs, it was clear to me that there was a big void not

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having Earl’s expertise and passion,” Brobeck said. “He is back now

and in charge of a very young and talented group of girls. He is

doing a tremendous job, but above all else, I think our coaching

styles really complement each other.”

The Laguna Beach cross country program has flourished in recent

years, evident by the fact that the boys’ and girls’ varsity teams

have qualified for four consecutive CIF Finals races at Mt. San

Antonio College in Walnut.

The teams currently are in training for the 2002 season, running

the entire summer, virtually, on the hills surrounding Laguna Beach.

“I have learned to do almost all of our training off of Laguna’s

streets,” Brobeck said. “Getting on the dirt has done wonders for our

team already. The normal aches and pains from pounding pavement are

down while core strength, mental toughness and levels of fitness are

way up.

“There are trail connections spanning from Newport Coast to Aliso

Beach that can be made where the only pavement touched is the 20 or

so yards crossing Laguna Canyon Road. There is no other cross country

program in Orange County with this kind of natural environment for

training -- what an advantage.”

That training regiment could be enough to give Laguna Beach

program the push it needs to win its first league title in 13 years.

“I see our varsity boys being right in the hunt,” Brobeck said. “I

believe we have an excellent shot at winning the Pacific Coast League

title if we stay healthy, train smart and have our numbers four and

five runners close the gap to our top three runners.”

Brobeck said his top two runners, Brendan Bowler and Nathan

Greene, are the best the school has had “in a decade.” Both, he

feels, have the ability to run three-mile races in the mid-to

upper-15 minute mark.

“I’m also excited to see how our frosh-soph and junior varsity

teams do this year,” he said. “The frosh-soph boys have won league

the past two years and the JV team has won it the past three years.

We have a glut of freshman talent.”

Brobeck, who was the No. 4 runner on Laguna Beach’s 1989 state

championship team and ascended to become No. 1 the following year as

a senior, sees the girls’ team right up there, too, this fall.

“The program is very strong, with the varsity making it to CIF

finals the past four years,” he said. “This year’s team is young but

high on talent and should do quite well. Newcomers Catherine Gordon,

Lauren Bosworth and Amelia Moore will add depth to strong returners

Kelly Jenett, Sara Stevenson, Carly Lojacono and Emma Proctor.”

Laguna Beach opens its 2002 campaign on Sept. 14 in the Laguna Hills Invitational. Other key meets during the season include the Mt.

SAC Invitational on Oct. 25, league rival Corona del Mar on Oct. 31

and the Pacific Coast League finals on Nov. 7.

If Laguna Beach has the good fortune of making the CIF finals race

for a fifth consecutive year, then the date of Nov. 23 -- the day for

the finals -- will be the most important date of all.

In addition to running toward a possible league title for the

first time in 13 years, both the boys’ and girls’ teams, despite four

straight trips to the CIF finals race, have yet to reach the state

meet in Fresno.

“This, of course, is one of our main goals with each new season,”

Brobeck said.


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