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Laguna Beach cross-country staff ‘excited’ about season to come

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Bella Fonk finished third in the Orange Coast League Finals last fall. She is the Breakers’ top returner for 2017.
(Courtesy of Steve Lalim)

Laguna Beach High announced last week that it has finalized its coaching staff for the cross-country season next fall.

Four new assistants were brought aboard, imbuing the Breakers with extensive prior coaching experience and a pedigree that includes competing at the next level.

Riley Martin and Tommy Newton-Neal join the staff shortly after completing their running careers at UC Irvine.

Newton-Neal comes in with strong ties to the Breakers’ program. He was a senior on the Laguna Beach team in 2009, which won the CIF State Division IV championship, 69-122, over McFarland. He finished the race 21st overall in 16:23.

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The other four in the scoring quintet that day were Matt Neev (2nd, 15:44), Blake Hofmeister (5th, 15:55), Andrew Shapero (15th, 16:10), and Sean Pigden (47th, 16:44).

At the prep level, Newton-Neal ranks fourth on the school’s all-time performance list with a three-mile personal record of 15:13.

There is more than one way to chase a championship, and that is the goal that Newton-Neal is bent on pursuing now.

“I’m excited to come back and coach at my alma mater, where I hope to win another state championship,” he said.

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Newton-Neal comes in with limited coaching experience, but he was mentored by highly successful San Juan Capistrano JSerra coach Marty Dugard last year.

The name of the game is excitement, as Martin also used the word to describe his thoughts on giving back to the sport that he was able to ride all the way to a career with the Anteaters.

“I’m really excited to work with some outstanding student-athletes at Laguna Beach High School and to pass on my knowledge I have gained from my years of running competitively,” Martin said.

The more experienced side of the coin comes from Fred Pichay and Dana Crawley, who each return to the Breakers program after brief stints away from the team. Pichay has been a part of the Laguna Beach long-distance running group for more than 30 years.

Crawley will be serving his third season as part of the staff. He previously helped out at Laguna Beach in the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

Laguna Beach’s girls’ team will enter this season as the defender of five consecutive Orange Coast League championships. The Breakers lose last year’s individual league champion in Ana Kelly to graduation, but they will retain another.

Rising senior Grace La Montagne was the league champion as a sophomore. The Breakers also return Bella Fonk, Molly Cohn, Emily Engel, and Hannah Konkel from their starting seven a year ago. Evie Cant, a standout on the track, could also have an increased role.

Evie Cant
Evie Cant
(Courtesy of Steve Lalim)
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Steve Lalim is going into his 10th season as the head coach of the Laguna Beach girls’ team. He is optimistic about the potential for next year’s team, despite not knowing what the freshman class might bring.

“We’re excited about the potential this season,” Lalim said. “We have a mix of young and veteran runners. I look forward to seeing what we can do.”

Sierra Read, Angelina Dyrnaes, and Kaitlyn Ryan will also join the roster after coming out for track as freshmen last year.

Much of Laguna Beach’s boys’ team remains intact. Luke La Montagne and Sebastian Fisher project as the frontrunners. Zachary Falkowski, Jaden Orr, Dylan Miller, and Timothy Loughlin are also holdovers from their starting lineup.

In addition, Cal Neilson (allergy) and Massimo Lucidi (illness) will return to the team after missing most of the previous campaign. Breakers boys’ coach Scott Wittkop says that both athletes are capable of slotting into the team’s scoring five.

CIF Southern Section postseason to remain in Riverside

At the conclusion of the 2016-2017 prep sports calendar, the CIF Southern Section wasted no time in making preparations for the year to come.

It has been announced that the CIF-SS Preliminaries and Finals will return to the Riverside City Cross-Country Course for a third consecutive season.

“It is with great thanks and appreciation for the efforts of the Riverside area cross-country coaches and programs, that we are looking forward to holding the 2017 CIF Southern Section-Ford prelims and finals at the Riverside Cross-Country Course,” assistant commissioner Rainer Wulf said in a press release.

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The largely flat Riverside course will once again serve as the road to state. The Prelims will be run over a two-day stretch. Divisions 1 and 3 will be contested on Friday, Nov. 10. Divisions 2, 4, and 5 will run qualifying races that Saturday. Championship Saturday will be Nov. 18.

Andrew.Turner@latimes.com

Twitter: @ProfessorTurner


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