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Laguna Beach cross-country sweeps Orange Coast League finals

At every level of the releaguing process, there will be proponents for and opponents against movement of athletic programs.

One sport may be more equipped than the next to handle a more challenging league, but in some respects, Laguna Beach High is set to be quite the cross-country competitor in the Sunset League next year.

Laguna Beach cross-country left a lasting impression of dominance upon its current Orange Coast League rivals, as the Breakers swept the boys’ and girls’ team titles in the league finals at Centennial Regional Park on Monday night.

Ryan Smithers won the boys’ race in 15 minutes 28 seconds for Laguna Beach, which edged Godinez 30-37. He was joined by teammates Luc La Montagne (15:43.1) and Zachary Falkowski (15:47.1) as the Breakers pushed the first three runners across.

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Laguna Beach rallied in the second half of the race, as Godinez had five runners in front of the Breakers’ third runner at the mile-and-a-quarter mark.

“Our team is very organized,” said Smithers, who is running cross-country for the first time after playing soccer to start his career at Laguna Beach. “It was our strategy to kind of hold back behind Godinez. The last mile-and-a-half, we had a goal to just push and get our top three in front of all of Godinez.”

“It worked out. Our team has a pretty good work ethic, and it’s just a great team.”

The Breakers’ victory snapped a streak of three straight league titles won by the Godinez boys.

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With the CIF Southern Section postseason meets moving from the Mt. San Antonio College course to the Riverside City Cross-Country Course the last two years, the Breakers’ home in the hills had not been as advantageous as in years past.

Laguna Beach boys’ coach Scott Wittkop said his team altered its training route because of the change, and it helped out especially when the league meets were moved from Irvine Regional Park to Centennial Regional Park, a flatter course, due to recent wildfires.

“We’ve kind of changed up our training a lot this year compared to last year,” Wittkop said. “Last year, we ran up in the hills a lot because that is where our school is.

“We’ve really converted out onto the beach, out on the beach paths, and on campus. We’ve adjusted a little bit because of not being at Mt. SAC.”

The Laguna Beach boys will be looking to reach the CIF Southern Section finals for the 20th consecutive season.

Laguna Beach’s girls had a streak of their own to keep intact. They did so successfully, taking their seventh straight league title with a 23-61 win over Costa Mesa.

Evie Cant led the charge, taking second in 17:41.8. Jessie Rose (third, 17:57.7), Angelina Dyrnaes (sixth, 18:48.1), Sierra Read (seventh, 18:55.5) and Grace La Montagne (eighth, 19:10) were the scoring five. Kaitlin Ryan finished ninth in 19:14.5, giving the Breakers six runners in the top 10.

Despite battling injuries to her calves and hips, Cant said this race was one she did not want to miss, especially in her senior year.

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“I really wanted to run in this race and just be with my team,” said Cant, who had not competed since the Clovis Invitational on Oct. 7. “I’ve already missed so many races. I’m so antsy. I really didn’t want to wait until CIF.”

While one course is not necessarily another’s equal, the Breakers’ team times were comparable to those posted by the Sunset League champions that were crowned on Saturday.

Laguna Beach’s girls ran 1:32:33, which was 11 seconds faster than Fountain Valley’s pack that repeated as Sunset League champions. The Breakers’ boys ran 1:19:16, bettering Sunset League victor Los Alamitos by 23 seconds.

Both of Costa Mesa’s teams made the cut for the CIF Southern Section Division 4 preliminaries by placing in the top three. Kevin Cortez (15:48.9) finished fourth to help the Mustangs’ boys take third with 65 points.

Diane Molina took the girls’ individual title for Costa Mesa. The sophomore had previously made it her goal to break 18 minutes this season, and she won the league final in 17:20.9.

“It shows me that if I push myself and I race a little harder to get out of my comfort zone, I can do great, amazing things,” Molina said after the race. “I look forward to breaking 17 [minutes] now.”

Dafne Garduno stood out for Estancia, taking 10th place in 19:48.3. The senior’s time was a nine-second personal record in her final high school race.

Individual runners had to finish in the top six as members of non-qualifying teams to advance. Calvary Chapel’s Elizabeth Radmilovich (fourth, 18:30) was the only one to accomplish the feat.

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BOYS’ CROSS-COUNTRY

Orange Coast League finals

At Centennial Regional Park

3-mile course

Q – Denotes CIF individual qualifier

Teams

1. Laguna Beach 30; 2. Godinez 37; 3. Costa Mesa 65; 4. Saddleback 105; 5. Estancia 141; Calvary Chapel DNP

Individuals

1. Smithers (Laguna Beach) 15:28.4; 2. L. La Montagne (Laguna Beach) 15:43.1; 3. Falkowski (Laguna Beach) 15:47.1; 4. Cortez (Costa Mesa) 15:48.9; 5. An. Gonzalez (Godinez) 15:49.9; 6. Ramirez (Godinez) 15:51.5; 7. Ar. Gonzalez (Godinez) 15:53.7; 8. Pineda (Godinez) 15:54.5; 9. Orozco (Saddleback) 15:56.0; 10. Neilson (Laguna Beach) 15:56.3

GIRLS’ CROSS-COUNTRY

Orange Coast League finals

At Centennial Regional Park

3-mile course

Q – Denotes CIF individual qualifier

Teams

1. Laguna Beach 23; 2. Costa Mesa 61; 3. Godinez 66; 4. Saddleback 90; 5. Estancia 130; Calvary Chapel DNP

Individuals

1. Molina (Costa Mesa) 17:20.9; 2. Cant (Laguna Beach) 17:41.8; 3. Rose (Laguna Beach) 17:57.7; 4. Radmilovich (Calvary Chapel) 18:30.0Q; 5. Avendano (Godinez) 18:39.9; 6. Dyrnaes (Laguna Beach) 18:48.1; 7. Read (Laguna Beach) 18:55.5; 8. G. La Montagne (Laguna Beach) 19:10.0; 9. Ryan (Laguna Beach) 19:14.5; 10. Garduno (Estancia) 19:48.3

Andrew.Turner@latimes.com

Twitter: @ProfessorTurner


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