At the end of the year, the Laguna Beach High girls’ cross-country team was peaking at the right time.
The Breakers proved it by making the CIF State Cross-Country Championships in Fresno after a year absence. Then, they proved it again Saturday at Woodward Park, finishing fifth in the state in Division IV.
The team time of 1 hour, 39 minutes is believed to be the fastest time the Breakers girls have run at the state meet, breaking the previous mark of 1:40:47 two years ago.
“I’m super-proud of them," Coach Steve Lalim said. “I think a lot of it has to do with our training. During the middle part of the season, we were training through our midseason races. I think our taper really worked."
Sophomore Natasha Strickland was the top individual for Laguna, placing 19th in 19:07. She was followed by senior McKenna Nokes in 29th, in 19:22. Sophomore Marisa Merchant’s time of 19:58 placed her 59th individually, and senior Gerry Artman was 65th in 20:02. Senior Parker Yamasaki placed 86th in 20:31, and junior Beverly Ronses was 90th in 20:35. Senior Kativa Strickland finished in 21:17, 125th individually out of the 188 runners in the race.
“It was great," Natasha Strickland said. “I had fun in the race, too. It was my first time running there and the course was really pretty. It was our last race of the season so I wanted to have a good last race. I think we were all really excited to make it and we all wanted to work really hard."
The Breakers were ranked out of the top seven at the end of the year in CIF Southern Section Division IV, yet they found their way to qualify for the state meet. And, though they were ranked ninth in the state before the race, they finished fifth when it counted.
“A lot of people said this is the last race, so just go for it," Nokes said. “Just the fact that we improved our state ranking, that was really cool. I feel like I ended my high school career on a good note, so I was happy. I think Steve’s training worked out. We improved by so much from last year. My legs weren’t heavy for CIF finals or the state meet. I think everyone just felt good and went for it."
Lalim gave all the credit to the girls, who were willing to put in the hard work to make it a very successful season.
“The girls were so diligent in their workouts over the year," he said. “They never cut any corners and I think that really helped."