Cross Country claims CIF, state in record-breaking season


Austin Plank

The varsity cross country team watches as Logan Brooks shaves Coach Wittkop’s head in front of the whole school at lunch. In the beginning of the season, Wittkop promised his players that if they won CIF and state they could shave his head.

Willie Rounaghi, Editor-in-chief/ Web Manager

For the first time in nine years, the Laguna Beach Boys Cross Country team has won the CIF and State Division IV Title. The Breakers were able to triumph due to a focused effort by the team throughout the year.

“To win CIF and State, it took a lot. The coaches asked us at the beginning of the season, ‘What are you willing to sacrifice?’ and the whole varsity squad came up with a list. We decided to focus on eating healthy, getting good sleep and making sure we helped hold our teammates accountable,” said Mateo Bianchi, who broke the sophomore record at Laguna Beach High School for his times in the 5k and 3-mile runs.  

The team’s success in the Sunset League Finals further demonstrates the program’s dominance. Along with easily winning the lower division of the league, in which they were placed, they won the combined league meet as well.

“The Sunset League has a lot more depth than the Orange Coast League. We should have been placed in the Surf division, and that is why we were excited that both divisions would run finals together. We wanted to prove that we belonged in the Surf Division.  We dominated both the Surf and the Wave and were crowned Sunset Conference Champions,” said head coach Scott Wittkop.

Early in the season, senior Sebastian Fisher broke the school record for the 3 mile with a time of 14:38, though that time did not last long as senior Ryan Smithers later broke that record by 17 seconds, running a 14:21. Along with their success in meets, these two seniors took on leadership roles throughout the season.

“I tried to set a good example for the rest of the team— watching what I eat, doing all those ice baths, stretching, putting in full effort, etc. Most of the upperclassmen on the cross team largely did the same thing, led by example. I’m pretty confident that our team really has transformed just this past year,” said Smithers.

While outstanding individual victories were important, a complete team effort was required to win it all. The Breakers’ unprecedented depth allowed the team to achieve such success. The last Laguna Beach team to win State in 2009 only had one runner who would’ve placed in the top six times of this year’s team. Since the top five runners are accounted for in a race, it is vital for a team to be well rounded.

“We didn’t win by having one or two insanely fast guys on the team. We won because of the commitment of everyone on the team to do not just whatever it takes for individual glory, but whatever we must do for our team to get that title,” said junior Logan Brooks, who beat the LBHS junior record for the 3-mile run.      

In order to achieve this strength in numbers mentality, the coaches created a positive and encouraging team culture that pushed the team to grow as a unit. One way they achieved this was by planning trips during and before the season to Ireland, San Francisco and Fresno.

“The coaches have pushed for a close and encouraging team culture since day one, and it has definitely worked. It’s much easier to run miles and miles when your friends are right there with you, and that has carried through from the varsity to the frosh/soph levels,” said Bianchi.

Although the Breakers lose many valuable seniors, the others will carry on and new leaders will emerge. The potential of this team is incredible— not only do they retain great runners such as Bianchi and Brooks, who each broke a class record, but they carry invaluable experience with them from this season. They know the dedication needed to become champions again.

“I feel like we’ve cultivated a team of hardworking guys, so I’m not nervous at all about next year. I know the other guys on the team will grow into a leadership position, setting examples to future runners. It’s a constant cycle of leadership,” said Smithers.

The team fully committed to the program, and in exchange, the results were extremely rewarding. Along with breaking the Laguna Beach team records for the 3-mile and 5k run, they broke the State course record for Division IV, setting themselves apart from any other team in the history of Laguna Beach. The culmination of hard work and persistence ultimately led to their record-breaking season.

“Absolutely everything we did  had a purpose— everything was planned. While it was the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had, I won’t lie when I say that some days were killer. Some workouts would push us to our mental and physical limit, left us on the ground gasping for air, and some races left us on the ground vomiting, but it was worth it. Everything we did, from breaking our physical boundaries to watching our diet made us a powerhouse in California,” said Smithers.