In seven weeks, the fall season will begin for the Laguna Beach High cross-country program. That may seem far off in the distance, but the boys' and girls' teams know that preparations for the demands of a challenging season begin now.
On Monday at El Morro School, the Breakers took that first step, well, first run, toward that 2014 campaign by beginning their summer workouts. Various runs, core workouts and swim workouts at the Laguna Beach High pool constitute their preparations.
Both the Laguna boys' and girls' teams are working toward continuing the success the cross-country program has built through the years. That early, hard work both teams have begun to put in is the cornerstone of a season that they are aiming to be part of, again,in late-November.
The Breakers could be in for a special year in 2014. They return 10 of their top 12 runners from a team that last year finished in second place at both the CIF Southern Section Division 4 finals, and CIF State Championships (Division 4) last November.
Among the returnees are All-CIF and All-Orange Coast League performer Cameron Zuziak and all-leaguers Mason Pitz, Drake Butler and Grant Barton., and Carter Fraser was the OCL champion at the sophomore level.
Coach Scott Wittkop said the boys' program will have 50 runners including incoming freshmen.
"Our goal is to set a solid foundation and be set to compete in September," Wittkop said of the Breakers' summer season.
The Breakers worked on setting that foundation last week when they headed to Big Bear for the program's annual retreat. There, Wittkop said the team was able to "set our goals and adjust our workouts."
The Breakers were in Big Bear for three days, returning Sunday , one day before the start of summer workouts.
They'll head to Grover, Utah, for a final summer retreat at a ranch. The eight-day trip starts Aug. 3.
"It is about bonding becoming a team and learning to rely on one another," said of the retreats.
Before heading to Utah, Wittkop said the Breakers will enter a few summer races starting with the Nite Moves in Santa Barbara July 30. The fall season starts Sept. 5 with the lower-level teams at the Seaside Invitational in Santa Barbara. The varsity opens in Minnesota at the Lucky Lindy Invitational.
"This is the strongest, deepest team that I have coached," Wittkop said of his current group.
Coach Steve Lalim welcomed approximately 30 runners to the summer program that is open to girls' grades seventh through 12th.
Workouts for the team are at El Morro four days a week, and also at Alta Laguna Park.
"It's going very well," he said of the summer season. "We have a lot of great kids in the program. The kids are eager and willing to work hard.
"The summer is all about building an aerobic foundation, preparing/setting them up to be successful in the fall. It's also about having fun, building friendships and creating a positive team culture."
The Breakers have six of seven runners who last year competed at the CIF State Championships (Division 4) at Fresno. Top returning runners for the 2014 season include Brenna Merchant, Natalie Kimball, Janie Crawford, Pearl Shoemaker, Kirsten Landsiedel, Greer Jacobs, Taylor Alvarez, Lauryn Alvarez, Ana Kelly, Allison Konno, Olivia Clark and Bailey Shoemaker.
Lalim said he is "hopeful" that one of the team's newcomers, Calleigh Cherrie, can "contribute to the team's success, as well."
"We have the potential to have another great season," he said. "We have a lot of very talented runners who put in the work and are committed to being successful. It really comes down to keeping the girls healthy, and preparing them to be successful."
The Breaker girls also will go on retreat. They head to Mammonth for a week-long team field trip July 30.
"Our trip to Mammoth is all about creating a culture of preparation, dedication, hard work and team unity," Lalim said. "We have a lot of fun doing so."
The Breakers run in their first invitational of the 2014 season Sept. 6 at the Mt. SAC Fastback Shootout in Walnut.