Team: Laguna Beach Breakers
State Division: 4 CIF Section: Southern League: Sunset Wave
Head Coach: Scott Wittkop
Varsity Returnees from 2018 Season Finale: 2 and 4
How They Fared in 2018: Won Division 4 State Championship!
Top Returnees: Logan Brooks, Sr. (15:49/Woodward Park, 9:26.72/3200); Mateo Bianchi, Jr. (16:02/Woodward Park, 9:20.43/3200)
What Our Crystal Ball is Showing: You couldn't have scripted it any better last year. The Breakers more than held their own against the "big boys" from the larger divisions, destroyed the Woodward Park team-time course record for Divison 4 schools, then stormed to their fourth state title in program history! This year, however, their story is in its very early stages and the ending is unknown. We expected three very solid runners to return, but one opted not to run this year. As a result, Laguna Beach will have to develop plenty of sorely needed depth in the months to come. Early reports are that multiple runners are stepping up; it still might not be enough to topple a pretty solid Division 4 field. All-state runner Logan Brooks (seventh at state last year after transferring in from Florida) and Mateo Bianchi (made huge strides during track season, when he clipped 9:20 for 3200 meters) are a bonafide 1-2 punch. The group likely needs three more runners within 30-35 seconds to have a chance at repeating as state champions. Right now then have none. Stay tuned.
With Laguna Beach graduating the majority of their squad from nearly a picture perfect 2018 season, defending their title will be a tall task. But the boys of Cathedral are back with the majority of their squad after placing fifth a year ago. They were the 2017 Divisional and State champions and a crucial member from that squad, Tyriq Granillo will lead the Phantoms in 2019. He was sixth at the divisional finals a year ago after placing third as a sophomore. On paper, they are the overwhelming favorites as juniors Juan Sanchez and Bryce Granillo will also up front seeking top ten spots at the divisional finals while incoming freshman Santiago Orozco should also insert himself as a scorer.
Can anyone challenge Cathedral?
With the rest of the top squads congested and not too far apart from one another (at least, on paper), Ocean View and Fillmore are heavy favorites to qualify for the California State Meet. Ocean View is looking to return back to the State Meet (they were sixth a year ago) for a third straight season and are led by Miguel Flores. Fillmore was tenth a year ago and should advance to the State Meet for the first time since 2012. Junior Fabian Del Villar will lead the Flash in their quest in 2019. The aforementioned Laguna Beach squad do return Logan Brooks and Mateo Bianchi, who were important cogs in the 2018 State Meet machine that set a new record on the Woodward Park course. Meanwhile, do not count out Foothill Tech. They are led by junior Oliver Pick (more below). Junior Josh Villasenor will also be up front for the Dragons.
Other squads that can sneak into the top seven?
Despite a major transfer moving away, Pioneer will be in the hunt for a State Meet berth. JSerra, led by Anthony Grover, is looking to add depth for a return trip to Fresno. Big Bear, Barstow and Burroughs of Ridgecrest will also looking to leapfrog some squad for a trip to Fresno.
Other Top Returners:
After spending the last two years as an assistant coach for the Laguna Beach boys’ cross-country team, Tommy Newton-Neal has been named the head coach of the Breakers’ boys’ track and field team.
Laguna Beach boys’ cross-country coach Scott Wittkop said he recently broke the news to his team, and Breakers distance-running ace Ryan Smithers endorsed the school’s decision.
“What he has done for our program is incredible,” Smithers said of Newton-Neal. “First of all, he understands what he is doing with every workout. I know that there can be coaches that just tell their [athletes] to go do a run, but everything he does has a purpose.
“This is why we peaked at the end of the season. He knows exactly what he is doing.”
Newton-Neal, who previously ran collegiately at UC Irvine, became known for running with the Breakers during their cross-country workouts. A 2010 graduate of Laguna Beach, Newton-Neal helped the Breakers win a state cross-country title in 2009, and he was the runner-up in the 1,600 meters at the Division 4 finals in 2010.
This season, the Breakers rallied around the idea that they wanted to beat their coach’s high school team, and Laguna Beach defeated San Anselmo Sir Francis Drake 68-97 for the CIF State Division IV cross-country title.
Just being the Division IV champ would be enough to get on this list, but this season was so much more than that for the Breakers. Laguna Beach had the 15th-best team performance of the state meet across all divisions, with only one team outside of D1 and D2 doing better. On the season, the team ranks 11th for 5K and a stunning 3rd in the state for 3 Miles (based largely on league meet times from a known super-fast course, but still). Those are remarkable numbers for a D4 squad, and Laguna Beach should not go unrecognized for being one of the best teams overall (not just in their division) this fall.
All-County boys cross country team: Laguna Beach’s Scott Wittkop takes top honor, and Ryan Smithers is first team.
2018 MileSplitCA XC All-State Senior Boys Ryan Smithers 3rd team. Mateo Bianchi All State Sophomore honorable mention..
Ryan Smithers (Laguna Beach/SS) -- Runner-up finish (15:27.8) at State Meet for Division IV, leading his squad to the Team Title; Surprise CIF-SS Finals Division IV Champion; 11th place finish at the Foot Locker Western Regionals and may have qualified if not for a stumble over the last 10 meters.
.....perhaps the best team ever from a school with less than 1200 students, Laguna Beach was amongst the top ten teams in the Southern Section all season long. They dominated the competition with a 92-point victory at the divisional finals. This would have qualified them for the California State Meet in the larger divisions as well.
In one of the more dominant team performances of the state meet, Laguna Beach took control early in the race and held strong through the finish, scoring four runners in the top 15 points-wise. Sir Francis Drake was actually within striking range of the title through four runners, but ended the race holding off Placer for second place.