Cross-country: Laguna heads to Fresno

On Friday, the Laguna Beach High cross-country boys' and girls' teams are departing for Fresno and Woodward Park.

In a month, both squads hope to once again be packing for the same destination.

The Breakers are heading north to compete at the prestigious Clovis Invitational which boys' Coach Scott Wittkop and girls' Coach Steve Lalim feel is one of the top meets in the state. It is set to draw several of the top cross-country teams who will compete Saturday morning.

Woodward Park is also the site in late-November of the CIF State Cross-Country Championships.

Both Laguna teams, each ranked among the top 10 in their respective CIF Southern Section Division 4 poll, hold a season-long goal to make it to Fresno next month.

It's always that way with the Laguna programs.

Wittkop describes the Woodward Park course as "traditional," with a "few hills and one of the more difficult courses we run all year."

"It will give us an idea of where we stack up with the competition and where we need to improve as a team," Wittkop said of the 5K event, which featured teams in three different divisions (Large, Medium, Small).

"It gives the team an opportunity to run the state course in preparation for the State Championships," Wittkop said.

The Laguna boys will compete in the Small Schools division. Wittkop said the boys' invitational will include 90 schools.

In previous meets this season, the Breakers boys' team, No. 3 in CIF Southern Section Division 4, have finished seventh at the Seaside Invitational, second at the Iolani Invitational in Hawaii, and last week won the boys' varsity division at the Orange Coast League Cluster.

Several Breakers have set personal-best times this year including: Cameron Zuziak (15:32, Seaside Invite), Grant Barton (15:52.1, Centennial Park); Veda Rebollar (15:54 Woodbridge Invite), Casey Koprowski (15:36, Seaside Invite), Drake Butler (16:18, Seaside Invite), Mason Pitz (16:20, Iolani Invite), Ian Ring (16:48.2, Seaside Invite), Liam Corrigan (16:54.2, Seaside Invite), Penn Neilson (17:05, Dana Hills Invite), and Carter Fraser (17:09, OCL Cluster).

"Our focus is simple — how do we get better as a team everyday?" Wittkop said. "We stress doing the little things well and knowing that hard work will get us where we want to go. The guys are working hard and are very dedicated to each other. That is what impresses me the most."

The Laguna girls' team also will compete in the Small Schools race which Lalim said includes 34 Division 4 teams.

"It's a very competitive meet," he said. "A lot of teams like to run at the Clovis Invite, because it's run on the same course as the State meet.

"My expectation for this meet is like any other. Race with confidence, run aggressive, put yourself in a good position early so you can be competitive throughout. If we do those three things, we'll do well."

The Laguna girls are ranked No. 7 in CIF Southern Section Division 4. The Breakers have previously finished in third place at both the Iolani Invite and Saturday's Palos Verdes Invite. Last week, they won the girls' varsity division at the OCL Cluster.

"We have a team of hard-working individuals who want to be successful," Lalim said. "We're not concerned with our ranking, what we concern ourselves with is working hard, staying healthy, and getting ready for when it counts, November."

Lalim calls Woodward Park an "ideal cross-country course."

"It's nice to run the course ahead of time," he said. "It gets the kids familiar with it, so they know what to expect when its crunch time."

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