Strickland, Newton impress

Coastline Pilot

Natasha Strickland ran into the Laguna Beach High record book Saturday with a standout performance at the CIF Southern Section Track and Field Championships at Cerritos College in Norwalk.

Strickland, a sophomore, ran an 11 minutes 6 seconds in the girls' Division IV 3,200 meters, good for fourth place. Her time bettered by seven seconds the previous record of 11:13, also held by Strickland.

"I thought Natasha was capable of improving on her school record time, I just didn't know how much," said Laguna girls' Coach Steve Lalim, who missed the finals meet. He and his wife welcomed a new baby girl into the family May 21.

"I figured it would require her to break 11:00 to qualify to Masters, so I was hoping for her to break 11 minutes," he said of Strickland missing the cut for this Friday's CIF Masters Meet at Cerritos College. "But, her time was a personal best, as she ran really well."

Lalim was impressed with Strickland's improvement from a year ago: she dropped 30 seconds in the 3,200 (11:36 to 11:06) and shaved 23 seconds in the 1,600 (5:33 to 5:10).

Strickland also qualified for the CIF finals in the girls' 1,600 but didn't compete in order to concentrate on the 3,200, Lalim said.

"I thought Natasha had an amazing year," he said. "She went from being a good runner, to a great runner. She's running at a whole different level."

Boys Seniors Tommy Newton, Sean Pigden and Brett Linkletter and junior Matt Neev represented Laguna at the CIF Division IV Finals on Saturday.

Newton ran strong in the 1,600 meters. His time of 4:24.19 was second to only St. Margaret's sophomore Billy Gaudreau, who won the division in 4:20.62.

Neev was two spots back of Newton in fourth place, finishing in a time of 4:26.03.

Pigden went 1:59.18 to finish fifth in the 800 meters. Webb senior Andrew Lantz won the event in 1:54.75.

Linkletter cleared 20-feet-6 in the pole vault to finish in eighth-place. Oaks Christian junior Niko Di Martino won the vault at 22-10 3/4 .

It was the final meet of their prep careers for Newton, Pigden and Linkletter.

"I thought our guys did really well at finals," boys' Coach Scott Wittkop said. "We had some good performances but we were just short in reaching that next (Masters) level."

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