Laguna Beach High cross-country runner Mateo Bianchi commits to UCLA
Mateo Bianchi was only a sophomore when he helped the Laguna Beach High School boys’ cross-country team win the CIF State Division IV championship.
Nearly two years later, Bianchi is making plans like several of his former teammates to run competitively at the college level.
Bianchi announced on Instagram last week that he has committed to the UCLA men’s cross-country program.
The Daily Pilot Dream Team selection said that he had narrowed his final four schools down to Duke, UCLA, UC San Diego and Yale.
With an offer on the table from Yale, Bianchi said that the academic standard at UCLA helped him to choose a school based on what made him comfortable.
“I think that ultimately, the quality of an education between UCLA and an Ivy League [school] is so similar,” Bianchi said. “They’re both very elite schools, so one of the bigger things for me is just like, ‘Am I going to be happy overall? Am I going to be able to enjoy myself?’ I think UCLA just was a better fit for me in that way.”
Bianchi, who said he carries a total grade-point average of 4.38, indicated that he would like to study a STEM field in college, perhaps bioengineering or data science.
By going to UCLA, Bianchi will be close to home. It may also feel like home, as Westwood features hilly neighborhoods for student housing, too.
“I think that’s definitely one of the big things that is so beneficial about running cross-country in Laguna Beach,” Bianchi said. “Every single run pretty much, there’s no way to escape the hills really, so you just get used to it.
“I think that does [make for] a big advantage when going to a new place because whether it has hills or not, you’re going to be ready.”
Bianchi thanked Breakers head coach Scott Wittkop, assistant coach Dave Brobeck, and former Laguna Beach assistant coach Tommy Newton-Neal for their influence on him.
“Without them, I wouldn’t be able to be here, so big shout out to them,” Bianchi added.
Brooks said he looks forward to competing with Bianchi at some point, and he reflected on the recent success that Laguna Beach has had in getting distance runners to the next level.
“I think it’s a testament to the fantastic running program at Laguna,” Brooks said. “The amount of dedication and support our coaches give to the program is phenomenal. Our special bond that year also contributed to our great success as a team.”
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a modified schedule for high school sports. It remains to be seen if a season will take place, but if it does, Bianchi will be looked up to for the role he has played the past couple of years.
“One of the goals for Mateo is to pass the torch to the young guys,” Wittkop said. “He is definitely the leader of the team.”
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