2018 Year in Review: Beach Sports
Making every minute count
by Randy Angel
Volleyball players from youth to collegiate to the professional level come from around the world to the South Bay to take advantage of the mild weather and deep sand.
The biggest story of the 2018 year came from three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings who, along with husband Casey, founded P1440. The name is meant to to encourage people to live every minute of the day with purpose — all 1,440 of them. P1440 events include a professional beach volleyball tournament, personal development experiences, live music performances and a Health & Wellness Village.
Played after the AVP tour concluded, P1440 began its inception with four events, the final one at Huntington Beach.
“What the p1440 team has been able to accomplish this year has been truly incredible and I’m looking forward to ending our first year in the amazing Huntington Beach community, where I first fell in love with the sport and launched my career on the sand,” Walsh Jennings
On the eight-event AVP Tour, the Hermosa Beach Open winners were the top-seeded men’s and women’s teams of Theo Brunner/John Hyden and Sara Hughes/Summer Ross, respectively.
At the Manhattan Beach Open, Redondo Beach resident Phil Dalhausser won his seventh title of the event with longtime partner Nick Lucena. Former Mira Costa standout Alix Klineman earned a win a bronze plaque on the Manhattan pier in her first appearance at the Manhattan Open, teaming with April Ross.
Locals win AAU titles
Local players fared well during numerous Amateur Athletic Union events throughout the summer, concluding the Junior Olympics.
In Hermosa Beach at the AAU California Regional Beach Volleyball Championships presented by Tropic Swimwear, in the Girls 14U competition Mele Blagojevich (Redondo Beach) and Zoe Morales (Hermosa Beach) earned spots in the Junior Olympic Games and Best of the Beach tournaments with their championship.
In the Girls 12U competition, Katherine Morley (Manhattan Beach) and Charlie Fuerbringer (Hermosa Beach) won gold as did Audrey Flannigan (Redondo Beach) and Milly McGee (Manhattan Beach) in the 10U division
In the Boys 14U division, the Redondo Beach tandem of Riley Norman and Izaac Newman took top honors.
At the Junior Olympics held in Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach’s Olivia Bakos and Peri Brennan (Laguna Beach) won gold in the 16U division with a thrilling 29-27 victory over a team consisting of girls from Florida and Nevada.
“Winning the AAU Gold Championship means a great deal to me because it was one of my goals this year and I enjoy playing in this amazing tournament,” Bakos said. Hermosa Beach’s Erin Inskeep (Hermosa Beach) and her partner, Kate Morley (Manhattan Beach), won the 12U division while Natalie Myszkowski (Manhattan Beach) and Aca Chw (Encinitas) captured the 15U title.
In the 15U division, Ava Chew (Encinitas) and Natalie Myszkowski (Manhattan Beach) captured gold.
The Cal Cup is invitation-only event that features players who have won at least one of 12 events on the CBVA Premier Tour. Manhattan Beach’s Piper Monk-Heidrich and San Clemente’s Abby Van Winkle, who will be teammates at UCLA, defeated Redondo Beach’s Kyla Doig and Elizabeth Waters-Leiga (San Leandro) for the Girls 18U title.
“Being able to win my last youth tournament ever was a fantastic feeling,” Monk-Heidrich said. “It was a perfect way to finish off my junior career.”
Local girls also won titles in the 14U and 12U brackets. Kelly Belardi (Manhattan Beach) and Savannah Standage (Redondo Beach) reigned victorious in the 14U division while Hermosa Beach’s Charlie Fuerbringer partnered with London Wijay (Northridge) to capture the 12U title.
In boys competition, Dane Johnson and partner John Schwengel (Santa Monica) defeated Timothy Brewster (Manhattan Beach) and Lance Muret (Encinitas) for the 18U crown.
Hermosa Beach’s Benjamin Coordt joined forces with Grant Strong of Clearwater, Florida to win the boys 16U competition while the Manhattan Beach duo of Mick Bakos and Ryan Sprague won the boys 14U title.
Costa volleyball players excel on the sand
Mira Costa’s girls beach volleyball team won its sixth straight Interscholastic Beach Volleyball League title and second consecutive State championship while extending the team’s winning streak to an incredible 87 matches under coach Eric Fonoimoana.
At the State Championship held Saturday, May 19 at Dockweiler State Beach, the Mustangs faced a tough Laguna Beach team in the title match.
Mira Costa’s No. 3 team of seniors Lea Ungar and Lily Snyder won 21-14, 21-17 while a pair of sophomores, Olivia Bakos and Kate Reilly, took care of business with a 25-15, 21-17 victory.
Then the Mustang’s winning streak was in jeopardy.
In the No. 1 match, Laguna Beach jumped out with a 21-17 victory, adding even more pressure on the team of senior Piper Monk-Heidrich and sophomore Maya Harvey.
But Mira Costa rebounded winning the next two games 23-21 and 15-11 to once again claim the State title.
“Our girls were extremely focused during the playoffs and our practices were intense and very competitive,”Fonoimoana said. “The most impressive part for me is that each team made big plays when they needed it most.
The team was led by Monk-Heidrich who took her talents to UCLA this fall.
“Winning the final match against Laguna was surreal,” Monk-Heidrich said. “Maya and I had trouble playing Lexi (Mckeown) and Peri (Brennan) before, but we came into the second and third games with a fire that was unmatched.”
On Oct. 12, Mira Costa’s boys squad won its third straight title at North Beach in Santa Monica.
Local guards, Bullock triumph at International surf festival
The swimmers kept them in the race, the paddlers delivered the lead, and the dorymen took the L.A. County Southern Section lifeguard team home through some seriously troubled waters, winning its fifth straight Judge Irving Taplin Medley Relay championship north of the Hermosa Beach pier.
Jack Bark’s leg in the race stood out. Bark entered the water for the anchor leg of the paddleboard component of the race — which begins with four swimmers and ends with four dory legs — with the team in third place. He left the water in first place.
LACO Southern “A” team consisted of: swimmers Kevin Fink, Ryan Bullock, Will Abele, Wyatt Kirchner; paddlers Shane Gallas, Jack Bark, Jake Miller, Brian Murphy; Dory Crews Mike Wurzel/Tyler Morgan, Tom Seth/Micah Carlson, Mike O’Donnell/Jeff Hart and Tom Swift/Mike Murphy.
This year’s Bud Stevenson Intracrew Medley saw a new winning team emerge when the lifeguards from Zuma Beach overtook Manhattan Beach’s “A” team to claim the title.
Manhattan Beach has finished in the top three for five consecutive years with championships coming in 2014 and 2015.
Venice placed third while 2017 champion Hermosa Beach finished fourth.
Hermosa Beach’s Ryan Bullock, 34, and El Segundo’s Kelsey Cummings, 25, were the top finishers for men and women in the 56th annual edition of the Dwight Crum Pier to Pier two-mile swim, starting at the Hermosa Pier and ending at the Manhattan Pier.
The win was Bullock’s third consecutive Pier to Pier win and his fourth in his last five attempts. His 39 minutes, 13 seconds, was two minutes faster than his last year’s time.
More than 1,300 people registered from 33 states.
The famously competitive, high-spirited Charlie Saikley 6-Man Beach Volleyball Tournament returned to Manhattan Beach for its 57th year.
Nearly 100 teams competed in four divisions with Team Spyder winning the Men’s Open and Serve on 2nd capturing the Women’s Open.
In the Velzy-Stevens Paddleboard Championship, Caleb Brown won with a time of 17:35. The top female was Laurie Armer, of Redondo Beach, who finished 18th overall at 22:08.
Lifeguard Max First took an early lead in the Riviera Mexican Grill R10 Paddleboard race and appeared certain to win the race, then he got off his board at the R10 buoy, four miles off of Torrance Beach. He remounted his board and won the race in 1:20:16, nearly four minutes ahead of second place finisher Cameron Merrill. It was back-to-back titles for First, who has won three of the past four years.
In the Surfing Championship, the Men’s Pro-AM Longboard title went to Christian Stunzman with Morgan Sliff winning the Women’s Open.
17-year-old JP Soares won the Dick Fitzgerald 2-Mile Beach Run with a time of 13:05.
In the opening event of the International Surf Festival, South Torrance High team sailors Peyton Lieser and Emma Tallman took first place in the FJs (14-foot Flying Juniors) competition during the youth sailing races hosted by the King Harbor Yacht Club.
Leetch breaks 14-year running record
Kirsten Leetch set an American record in the 10,000-meter race at the Mt. SAC Relays on April 21. Running for Janes Elite Racing, Leetch posted a time of 37 minutes, 4.87 seconds.
The Redondo Beach resident works at Students Sports in Torrance and an assistant coach for the Redondo Union High School cross country team, helping husband and head coach Bob Leetch.
Leetch capped off a productive year of running, winning a National Championship in the USATF Club Cross Country Nationals on Saturday, Dec. 8.
Her first place finish paced her team (Janes Elite Racing) to a 1-2-3 finish and team title in 23 degree weather at Plantes Ferry Sports Complex in Spokane, Wash.
“I feel honored to be a part of this tough, amazing and fun group of special women,” Leetch said.
A 1984 graduate of Palos Verdes High School, Leetch remains the schools only state track champion. A 5-time All-American in cross country and track at UC Berkeley, she placed 3rd in the NCAA track championships and 2nd in the TAC (now known as the USATF Championships) for 10,000 meters in 1985.
57th MB Grand Prix draws large crowd
by Jared Flippen
More than 300 cyclists and runners from across the country and the globe gathered for the 57th annual Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, held Sunday, July 22..
New this year to the race was the Manhattan Mile Run. Young adults, parents and their children along with elderly people were among the runners.
“The race this year was a great success with an 25 percent increase in the number of riders, partially due to the fact that it was the 2018 State Elite Championships,” Race Director Greg Aden said. “Spectatorship was up significantly due to the continued success of the Chevron Kid’s Zone and the addition of the Manhattan Mile running race as part of the day.”
Winners of the top races, the Men’s Pro 1-2 and the Women’s Pro 1-3 were Justin Williams of Los Angeles, and Coryn Rivera of Tustin, respectively.
Costa grapplers pin down success
Mira Costa’s wrestling team reached the Masters Meet and the girls squad, led by its top wrestler Sasha Medvidovic, sent three athletes to State. Mira Costa had a team-high five male wrestlers qualify for the Masters Meet, but it was Medvidovic who outplaced them all becoming the first female Mustang to win a CIF-SS title. She placed 3rd in the 150-pound division of the State championships on Feb. 24 for the second time in her career. She also finished third as a sophomore before suffering an injury the prior to the season.
Sasha is going to be missed as she goes on to wrestle in college. She has been a great leader for our team,” Mira Costa coach Jimmy Chaney said.
The other two Costa girls who wrestled in the State meet were Allysa Nocum (121), who finished in the top 12 and Viviana Ramirez (189), who finished in the top 24. Both are juniors and are expected to lead the Mustangs this season. Allysa Nocum (121) and Viviana Ramirez (189).
Redondo wins state girls basketball
Led by 23-year head coach Marcelo Enriquez, Redondo (31-5) captured the school’s first State girls basketball championship with a 57-42 victory over Pleasant Valley of Chico, the Northern California champion, for the CIF-State Division 2 crown.
The Sea Hawks received inspiration from Ryse Williams, an 18-year-old star of the boys basketball team who died of cancer the previous June.
“Ryse has been with us all year and we kept him in the forefront of our minds,” Enriquez said after the title win. “We broke every huddle shouting Ryse Up. Not only was he a great player, but he was down to earth, extremely humble, a hard worker and an exceptional young man.”
With only three seniors on its team, Redondo had eight different players score with three in double figures. Sophomore Alyssa Munn scored a team-high 17 points with four assists and three steals, while juniors Dylan Horton and Jasmine Davis each added 11 points. Freshman Calli Stokes contributed with nine points.
Enriquez and Munn were named CIF-SS Division 2AA Coach and Player of the Year while Dylan Horton was a first team selection.
Despite playing without standout sophomore guard Anna Johnson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during Redondo’s win against Lynwood in the CIF-SS championship game, the Sea Hawk’s deep lineup found ways to win.
Senior forward Ashlynn Autrey, who celebrated her 18th birthday with her teammates following the Sea Hawk’s championship win, felt the team chemistry surpassed that of any other team she has played for.
Redondo won the Bay League with a 9-1 record, then the CIF-Southern Section Division 2AA title with a 55-43 victory over Lynwood followed by the Southern California Division 2 championship with a 56-43 win against San Marcos.
Athletes run wild in local races
Though 2018 was a year of celebrating throwbacks at the 40th Annual Redondo Beach Super Bowl Sunday 10K/5K race on Feb. 4, a new overall champion – and Beach Cities native – took the 10K crown setting the mood for a number of local races.
Former Redondo Union High runner Simon Schmidt, 25, with a time of 31 minute, 17 seconds, outpaced Stewart Harrell, 32:02, of Redondo Beach, and Daniel Sorenson, 32:07, of Long Beach, to win the 10K.
Mariel Mendoza of Los Angeles won the women’s 10K with a time of 37:13.
Tonny Okello, of Los Angeles, won the 5K Run/Walk with a time of 15:46, while Kristen Leetch of Redondo won the women’s division with a time of 18:43, and was eighth overall.
At the 15th St. Patrick’s 5K, Juan Paredes won the event for the second time in three years posting a time of 15:20. Paredes beat 2017 winner and Redondo Beach resident Stewart Harwell (16:04) and Santa Monica’s Adam Henry (16:40).
On June 10, the 14th Redondo Beach Triathlon was held with a new generation of athletes taking top honors.
18-year-old Zane Grenoble, of Playa Del Rey, won with a time of 42 minutes, 25 seconds easily beating 52-year-old runner-up Michael Collins of Irvine (43:57) and Torrance 15-year-old Alex Mainvielle (45:25).
Although three minutes separated the top three male competitors, the women were involved in a tight battle, with only 29 seconds separating the top three finishers. Marta Meinardi, 15, took top honors with a time of 50:24.
Later in June, the 19th Annual Hermosa Beach Triathlon was held with Dylan Efron of Los Angeles grabbing the title with a time of 51:05. Jennifer Temperley, of Manhattan Beach, was the first female at 57:31.
Running in her first Village Runner 4th of July 5K in Riviera Village, Palos Verdes standout Kristy Legg captured the women’s division with a time of 17 minutes, 6 seconds edging Santa Monica’s Christine Bolf (17:06) in one of the tightest finishes in the event’s 25 years.
Legg, 28, is the cross country head coach at Marymount University.
“Despite being a local race, it was my first time running in it and there was good competition on the women’s side,” Legg said. “As the race developed, I knew I had some work to do. I worked my way up to the front and managed to sneak in a win.”
On Oct. 6, the Manhattan Beach 10K was held for the 41st time, with local running star Stewart Harwell shaving 16 seconds off his 2017 winning time to cross the finish line at 31 minutes, 43 seconds.
Hermosa Beach’s Cheyne Inman finished second at 32:29 and Alexander Gorney, of Redondo Beach placed third at 34.20.
Former Mira Costa High School distance runner Abby Hong, 22, captured the women’s title with a time of 35:40.
Solberg leads LA County in reclaiming title
Members of the LA County Surf Life Saving Association got their revenge in August, retaking the Jersey Mike’s United States Lifeguard Association (USLA) National Lifeguard Championships, for its 29th title in the last 31 years.
LA County won the Howard Lee Trophy for overall points with 1,244.252 and the Greg Farry Trophy (overall points for Men and Women Open competition) with 785.252.
LA County’s Jenna Solberg captured her third straight Women’s overall point title with 94 points beating out teammate and runner-up Kelsey Cummings for the third straight year. Cummings finished with 89.5 points.
“Winning overall points has gotten harder every year,” Solberg explained. “The competition is getting so much better which means the sport is really growing and taking steps in the right direction. Kelsey and I continue to push each other to our best, and to beat her by only a couple points was such a hard feat. We train together, so I knew it would take every last effort on my end to win overall this year.
“My toughest event had to be the American Ironwoman. It was my 8th final in a row on Saturday evening, and to end it with a three piece race of ‘swim, board, dory boat’ was really hard.”
Timothy Burdiak and Renae Jackson won the SurfSki mens and womens championships, respectively.
Solberg placed 2nd in the Ironwoman and 3rd in the American Ironwoman events and was a member of the winning Rescue Race team along with Coral Kemp, Cummings and Renae Jackson. Cummings also won the Ironguard and Surf Race competition.
In Men’s competition, LA County’s team of Azad Al-Barazi, Kevin Fink, Hunter Hay and Timothy Burdiak won the Men’s Rescue Race.
Brian Murphy finished 2nd in the Ironman and Board Race competition. The LA County men also had 2nd-place finishes by Jeff Hart (American Ironman) and Kevin Fink (Surf Race) while Shane Gallas placed 3rd in the Board Race.
by Randy Angel