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Experience could help local cross-country runners at CIF State meet

Experience could help local cross-country runners at CIF State meet
Laguna Beach High's Ryan Smithers surpasses two JSerra runners to win the CIF Southern Section Division 4 boys' cross-country final at the Riverside City Cross-Country Course on Nov. 17. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Local cross-country programs secured seven bids into Saturday’s CIF State championship meet at Woodward Park in Fresno.

The area’s representatives come in the form of four teams — Laguna Beach boys and girls, Fountain Valley girls and Ocean View boys — and three individual qualifiers — Newport Harbor’s Alexis Garcia, Corona del Mar’s Annabelle Boudreau and Costa Mesa’s Diane Molina.

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Experience is the ally of the locals to make it, as all but one — the Fountain Valley girls — competed in the state meet last November.

The Laguna Beach boys are at the front of the pack when examining the potential of local teams to bring home a state crown. After claiming the CIF Southern Section Division 4 championship with a convincing 39-131 win over JSerra, the Breakers will be a favorite to grab the Division IV title.

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San Anselmo Sir Francis Drake from the North Coast Section, the state runner-up last season, is a top contender. So is JSerra, which returned defending state champion Anthony Grover this year.

Ryan Smithers, fresh off winning the Division 4 individual title, leads the Breakers, but Laguna Beach runs well as a pack. Six runners finished in the top 13 for the Breakers at the section finals.

Ocean View’s boys delivered an encore performance in the Division 4 final, placing sixth (206 points) to advance to the state meet in back-to-back campaigns. Last year marked the Seahawks’ first trip to state in program history.

The Seahawks ran together at the top, with Jason St. Pierre (28th, 15:54.2), Edwin Montes (30th, 15:55.5) and Miguel Flores (35th, 16:03.2) finishing within an eight-position span.

Laguna Beach’s girls also qualified, riding the top-20 performances of Hannah Konkel (11th, 18:13.3) and Jessie Rose (19th, 18:33.4) to sixth place (213 points) in the Division 4 girls’ final at the Riverside City Cross-Country Course last Saturday.

The Breakers’ girls will compete at state for the second year in a row and for the fourth time in the last six seasons.

“I’d say it’s a pretty good group effort and a lot of improvements from many of them,” Breakers coach Steve Lalim said of his team’s consistency in recent years. “Honestly, it just comes down to they work really hard and they do all the little things that make a big difference.”

Fountain Valley’s girls have advanced to their first state meet since 2007. The Barons had trended in this direction for several seasons, as they have secured three consecutive league titles.

Local individual qualifiers competing on Saturday will be looking to build off of strong past performances at the state meet. Garcia, a Newport Harbor senior, heads this select group, having already competed at the state meet twice as an individual. He finished in fifth place in Division II last year.

Boudreau, a CdM sophomore, placed 20th in the girls’ Division III race last year. She will compete as an individual this year after the Sea Kings failed to advance to state as a team.

Boudreau said she was sad to see her team miss the cut, but she will represent the program as a whole on Saturday.

“I’m definitely pretty sad because when you’re training every day with people who you train hard with, it’s definitely a bummer,” Boudreau said. “I’m proud. I feel like I’m doing this for everyone and my teammates.”

Molina, a Costa Mesa junior, will make her second appearance at the state meet, too. She placed 15th in the Division IV girls’ race last year.

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CIF State cross-country championships

When/Where: 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Woodward Park (7775 N. Friant Road, Fresno, CA 93720)

Fan info: General admission is $10. Tickets for children, students with an ASB card and seniors are $5. There is no charge for parking, but spectators must purchase a ticket to enter the park.

Race schedule (includes locals competing)

Division I boys, 8:30 a.m.: None

Division II boys, 9 a.m.: Alexis Garcia, Newport Harbor, Sr.

Division I girls, 9:30 a.m.: Fountain Valley

Division II girls, 10 a.m.: None

Division III boys, 10:30 a.m.: None

Division IV girls, 11 a.m.: Laguna Beach; Diane Molina, Costa Mesa, Jr.

Division V boys, 11:30 a.m.: None

Division III girls, noon: Annabelle Boudreau, Corona del Mar, So.

Division IV boys, 12:30 p.m.: Laguna Beach; Ocean View

Division V girls, 1 p.m.: None

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