Laguna finishes seventh at state

Forget San Jose. The Laguna Beach High boys' cross-country program certainly knows the way to Fresno.

In what has become a Thanksgiving weekend tradition for the program, Laguna once again made the trek north Saturday for the CIF State Cross-Country Championships at Woodward Park. The Breakers, who won a State Division 4 title last fall, might not have repeated as champions, but they did turn in the third-fastest team time by a Laguna team at the competition.

Laguna earned a top 10 finish by placing seventh with a team time of 1 hour 23 minutes 28 seconds and 214 points. San Rafael won the team title with 130 points.

The Breakers were the highest-placing Orange County team in the division. JSerra was in 14th place with 297 points.

Senior Matt Neev capped a memorable and decorated Laguna career by finishing second (15:25) in the boys' Division 4 race. It was the top individual time turned in by a Laguna runner at the boys' State meet, Coach Scott Wittkop said.

Neev was second to Daniel Milechman (15:11) of Tamalpais (Mill Valley).

"With only one varsity returner (Neev) this year, these kids did an amazing job of not only getting back to Fresno, but ending up in the top 10 in the State was very impressive," Wittkop said. "One of the most impressive things about this team is how they came together. We were a bunch of individuals that turned into a tight-knit group with a single purpose.

"All the kids ran great."

In addition to Neev's second-place finish, junior Jeff White (16:43) was 32nd, senior Aaron Swartz (16:52) was 42nd, junior Tyler Nichols (17:12) was 66th, junior Ryan Jones (17:16) was 72nd, senior Alec Toro (17:18) was 76th and sophomore Mitchell Kimball (17:31) was 87th.

During his four-year Laguna career, Neev was a two-time Orange Coast League champion, CIF Southern Section Division 4 runner-up, individual champion at both the Stanford and Mt Carmel invitational and a two-time CIF State Division 4 runner-up.

Neev ran at Woodward Park in all four of his years with the program.

"Matt always gave it his all, you knew when he lined up that he was in it to win it," Wittkop said of Neev. "Matt is the kind of athlete that makes everyone around him better. He definitely was the ultimate teammate.

"I am very glad to be a part of this team and watch these young men grow, I can't wait till we can do it again next year."

Wittkop said that the boys' team is "looking" to possibly run in invitationals in the 2011 season in Mammoth, Hawaii, Fresno and San Diego.

"We believe that we have a great shot at not only a league title, but a CIF and State title, next year," he said.

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