Senior Amber Gore leads a strong group of runners on Redondo’s girls cross country team. Photo by Ray Vidal
Each fall, Bob Leetch finds a way to rebuild his cross country teams and his success in doing so has developed Redondo Union into one of the top distance running programs in the state.
He’ll face another challenge this season with the Sea Hawk’s girls team – how to utilize the abundance of talent.
Redondo returns its entire squad that placed second at CIF and third in the State Championships in 2013 and has up-and-coming runners waiting in the wings.
“We are used to excellence with everything involved with this girls program and this year’s group should not disappoint,” Leetch said. “Leading the charge from last year is senior Amber Gore. Behind her are a high-powered tight bunch with vastly improved track superstar Anevay Hiehle and seniors Nicole Pedersen, Thalia Silva and Breya Wynne.”
Adding to the depth are Nicole and Taylor Beaudoin, who have had high quality summers of training.
“Those two are really ready to do something special this year,” Leetch added “All the girls can feel it.”
Gore looks to improve on a successful 2013 season when she placed fifth in the always tough Division 2 State Championships, posting the fastest 5K time (17:31) among South Bay runners. She also finished sixth at the CIF-SS Division 2 finals, won the Clovis Invitational, placed second at the Woodbridge Invitational and 11th at the Mt. SAC Invitational.
Gore said she hopes to finish in the top three at the state meet this season while leading Redondo to a state title and a berth in the Nike Cross Nationals.
“Because we are returning all seven of our runners from the last year’s state meet, I do not believe we have any one ‘top runner,’” Gore said. “We are beginning the season with a good size group all competing for the top varsity seven spots. This year’s team is showing the most potential since I have been competing for Redondo. It will only be a matter of taking all the talent and executing our strengths in the race in order for us to be successful as a team, not only as individuals.”
After transferring from South Torrance, the Beaudoin twins made an immediate impact for Redondo last season. Nicole placed third at the Clovis Invitational and 15th at the Mt. SAC Invitational. In the post season, she finished 27th at the CIF-SS Division 2 finals (18:19) and 33rd at the State meet (18:39).
Taylor placed 12th and 16th at Clovis and Mt. SAC, respectively, then finished 24th at the CIF-SS finals (18:17) and 31st at State (18:38).
Hiehle ran 18:40 (41st place) at CIF and 18:55 (52nd) at state.
Leetch believes the future is bright for the Sea Hawks.
Mira Costa’s Emma Lautanen will have her eyes set on a Bay League title this season. Photo by Ray Vidal
“We had fantastic freshmen who were not 100 percent this summer and I thought we might suffer until they get into proper shape,” Leetch said. “But with the type of depth we have right now I don’t expect it will be very long before we are competing at the same high level we have become accustomed to seeing. Some of these girls are not household names like Gore and Hiehle, but they will make an impact on this team very soon. This should be an interesting first half of the season.”
Redondo opens its season Saturday, Sept. 6 with the Great Cow Run to begin at 7:15 a.m. at Cerritos Regional Park.
Mira Costa’s girls team returns two standout runners in seniors Emma Lautanen and Natasha Brunstein who helped the Mustangs finish second in the Bay League last season. They will be looked upon to replace Bay League champion Abby Hong, who is now running for the University of Pennsylvania.
“The league is stronger than it has ever been going into this season,” Mira Costa coach Renee Williams-Smith said. “PV has a couple new runners and is returning all but one of its squad and Redondo is returning everyone. It is going to be tough to replace Abby but we have five of our top seven returning and we plan to work really hard. We have a new league this year (Inglewood and Morningside replace West Torrance and Leuzinger) so it ought to be interesting.”
Lautanen had three top-five Bay League finishes, finished 16th at the CIF-SS Division II finals (18:03), 20th-place (18:23) at the CIF State Division 2 finals and placed 14th at the Mt. SAC Invitational.
Brunstein had three top-10 Bay League finishes and finished 32nd at CIF (18:23) and 25th at State (18:30).
Also returning for the Mustangs are senior Leora Tofler and juniors Alexis Johnson and Amanda Han.
Redondo senior Carlos Suarez is seeking his fourth appearance at the CIF State Championships. Photo by Ray Vidal
Williams-Smith recently won the Brooks Most Inspiring Coach of the Year award which included $10,000 in Brooks gear. She and the Mira Costa cross country program decided to share the award.
On Saturday, Sept. 6 at Malaga Cove, Mira Costa will have a “Run with Hawthorne” event where 20 pairs of racing flats will be presented to Hawthorne High School which is starting a new cross country team after a ten year hiatus.
Mira Costa warmed up for the season with a Palos Verdes Mini Meet on Aug. 28 where select runners participated in the 2-mile race on the Palos Verdes course. On Saturday, Sept. 13 the Mustangs will compete in the Laguna Hills Invitational.
In boys competition, Redondo and Mira Costa will once again find themselves chasing Palos Verdes for the Bay League title.
Redondo will be led by senior Carlos Suarez who will be going for his fourth consecutive appearance in the State Division 2 finals.
Suarez placed among the top three in all three Bay League meets, including a second-place finish in the championships. He finished 10th at the CIF finals (15:14) and 21st at the State meet (15:46), helping the Sea Hawks place fifth in Division 2. He also finished 11th at the Mt. SAC Invitational and 12tth at the Great Cow Run.
“Carlos has had an amazing run with us,” Leetch said. “His last season was especially significant with very high finishes in CIF and state. He followed it up with an amazing track season, running 9:15 for 3200 meters.
“We thought this was going to be a rebuilding year with loses of senior Will Tait, Dustin Herold, Nick Wells and Waseem Radi. But it has turned out to be a reloading year instead.”
Leetch has been impressed with the progress of senior Sergio Rodriguez, an 800-meter track specialist who has shown great aptitude for long distance running.
Senior Chance Weston will help Mira Costa challenge for the Bay League title. Photo by Ray Vidal
“Sergio is close to figuring out this whole cross country thing,” Leetch said. “Once he does, look out. So much talent with that one.”
Also expected to contribute are seniors Jonathon Douglas and Luke Stevens along with Nick Elias, Andrew Zavala, Josh Alther and Ethan Comeaux.
Mira Costa head coach Roberto Calderon expect his deep Mustang squad to challenge for the Bay League title after his squad finished 16th in the CIF finals last season.
Mira Costa will rely on strong performances by junior Ethan Williams, seniors Chance Weston, Bram Osterhout, Brandon Shirazi and sophomore Kevin Mauge.
“We also have Matt O’Brien, David Hodges and Jacob Helfgott returning from injuries,” Calderon said. “We also have a promising sophomore class that includes Caleb Llori, Austin Lamb, and Scott Healy for an opportunity to make varsity. It was will a challenge to dethrone the defending league champions, PV, but our guys are ready for the challenge. Coach (Brian) Shapiro and (Jeff) Atkinson are stellar coaches. In my opinion they are the best pair in the state. Redondo is young but they are talented.”