The Redondo Union Girls Cross Country team. Top row, left to right: Coach Bob Leetch, Trinity Leonard, Anevay Heilhe, Amber Gore, Coach Julie Ferron. Bottom row; Thalia Silva, Taylor Beaudoin, Nicole Beaudoin, Peyton Bell
The Redondo Union High School girls cross country team finished its season emphatically Saturday, finishing third in the CIF Division II state championships on a famously grueling course at Fresno. The strong performance followed the team’s second place finish at the Southern Section finals a week earlier.
The team was led by junior Amber Gore, who took fifth overall individually and earned all-state honors. Coach Bob Leetch, who handles the team along with co-head coach Julie Ferron, said he was proud his team made the podium but predicted the best is yet to come for a young team that includes two freshman and two sophomores and returns all of its runners next year.
“This is going to be a very good team for quite a while,” Leetch said.
This is the fourth time in five years the girls team finished third at state, and its sixth straight appearance in the CIF championships. The team started slowly this year, a fact that Leetch attributed “laying it on thick” during training throughout the year and then lightening it up as the CIFs approached. The team was also in some flux, as sophomore twins Taylor and Nicole Beaudoin became eligible during the season after transferring from Torrance.
But Leetch also emphasized a quality beyond training that either athletes have or do not – showing up strong when the most is on the line.
“To perform so well when it was all on the line is something we are very proud of,” he said. “We trained very, very hard this season and kind of raced on heavy legs throughout league. We were hoping to be peaking and ready by state… That team has not only handled the training but they have created a special bond with each other. That is a very close knit group.”
Gore echoed her coach’s sentiments.
“I’m glad to place third at state with this group of girls,” Gore said. “We’ve really bonded throughout the year, despite all the changes in the varsity seven. I can’t wait to see what next year brings as we continue improving.”
Gore’s time of 17:36 set a new RUHS record, breaking the mark set by Lyndsey Mull in 2011.
“Amber’s time is also the fastest mark on the famous Woodward course by California high school runner who has competed in the 800 meter in the State meet,” Leetch said. “This is a great indicator of her terrific range of talents. We are talking big time stuff.”
Mira Costa star runner and Bay League champion Abby Hong finished only a second behind Gore, placing sixth overall and earning all-state honors. Mira Costa placed three runners in the top 25 as Emma Lautanen finished 20th at 18:23 and Natasha Brunstein finished 25th in 18:30.
RUHS’s Beaudoin twins finished a second apart as Taylor finished 31st at 18:38 and Nicole 33rd at 18:39. Redondo junior Anavey Hiehle finished 52nd in 18:55, and freshman Trinity Leonard finished 53rd in 18:57.
In Division III, both the boys and girls Palos Verdes cross country team finished third.
The Redondo boys team didn’t perform up to its own expectations, but still finished fifth in the state. The team was led by Dustin Herold, who finished 15th at 15:40, and Carlos Suarez, who finished 21st at 15:46.
“We didn’t really end the season as we wanted to but everyone ran well despite the 5th place finish,” Herold said. “The coaches and workouts can only do so much, but it’s every individual that makes the difference. That is what makes this sport unique.”
Leetch said Suarez has proven himself an elite runner this year, while Herold was the team’s “shepherd” in that in most races he hung back to help teammates then finished strong.
“He had the kind race we know he’s capable of running all the time,” Leetch said. “He’s very team-oriented and I think he sacrificed quite a bit so the team could have a shot at greatness.”
“It really is like a family,” Leetch added. “Both teams have come a long way. The coaching staff and the entire school is very proud of these accomplishments. The hard work was worth it.”