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Laguna teen wins gold medal at the Pan Am World Championship Jiu Jitsu tournament

William (Paul) Wittkop, 13-year-old son of Laguna Beach High School teacher Scott Wittkop, won a Gold Medal this week at the Pan Am World Championship. The IBJJF Pan Am Jiu Jitsu Championship Tournament for kids was held at the Long Beach Walters Pyramid Center.

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Photo by Scott Wittkop

William Wittkop (on right) wins the gold medal at Pan Am World Championship

The Pan Am World Championship Jiu Jitsu Tournament is the largest one for kids in the world. William competed against athletes from South Carolina, Texas, Canada and the UK. He was undefeated in the tournament winning his matches by submission, 5-2, 5-0, and 9-0 in the Gold Medal Match. William competes for Alliance BJJ under Laercio Fernandes and Anthony Frank. 

 “I like the life of training and competing,” says the seventh grader Connections Academy student. “I train seven days a week and over 30 hours a week. My training includes Jui Justu, wrestling, and MMA. I train in the kids’ classes and also with the adults.” 

William’s father has been the LBHS boy’s cross-country coach for years and has also coached LBHS football.  

When asked how he compares William’s training to the rigors of cross-country and football, Coach Wittkop had this to say, “I think training for all sports is very similar. If you work hard, have good coaching and are dedicated, good things will happen.”

The Jiu-Jitsu Pan-American Championship has been held annually since 1995. While the first event garnered only 250 athletes, the event has grown every year and now hosts thousands of competitors from all over the world.

This year, Laguna Beach’s own brought home the gold.


LBHS girls’ soccer team reaches CIF quarterfinals

By Coach Ben Helm

On Friday (today) the LBHS girls’ soccer varsity team plays away in the quarterfinals of CIF against Paloma Valley High School after a win against Crean Lutheran at home on Tuesday.

In my first season as the Head Coach it was daunting to follow the tenure of Bill Rolfing. He and his staff had so much success with their program and established the culture of expectation and excellence that you see today.

Sophomore and midfielder Jayd Sprague takes on the Godinez goalie

Senior midfielder Alden Kramer in action

Senior forward Haylee Jarvis takes charge

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The LBHS girls’ varsity soccer team has excelled this year

The administration and support staff at the high school have been incredibly welcoming and helpful.

This made the transition smooth and let the players focus on being successful on the field and in the classroom. 

During league play, varsity went 8-1-1, putting them first in league. Our first CIF game was at home against Crean Lutheran and we enjoyed a 4-0 win moving us on to play in Lancaster on Tuesday and take a  2-1 victory.  

Although the varsity team gets the most press, our F/S team was very successful and the JV team went undefeated.

I know the girls are always excited to represent the high school and the community of Laguna Beach. 

Thank you to those who support the program!


TOW fifth grader & top surfer Brayden Belden suffers grave head injury while snowboarding

On February 20, Brayden Belden, a towheaded 11-year-old boy known for his terrific surfing skills and happy personality, suffered a near-fatal head injury following a snowboarding jump while on vacation with his family in Oregon.

The young boy was stabilized at a hospital in Bend and airlifted to the pediatric intensive care unit at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland, where he now lies in a medically induced coma as he recovers.

His parents were initially told that Brayden had just hours to live. 

Thanks to timely medical care, according to his dad Matt Belden, Brayden’s condition has stabilized and he is expected to survive, though “he’ll have a long road back,” notes a statement on the GoFundMe page that has been set up by friends to help Brayden’s family deal with expected astronomical medical expenses.

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Photo from GoFundMe page

Brayden Belden in action

The latest update on the page, written by his dad Matt, reads in part: “I am very happy to announce that all the medical staff are in agreement with a 99 percent chance of no craniectomy [removal of part of the skull to allow for brain swelling].

“Brayden’s brain swelling appears to have topped out and he is tolerating his meds. He is following the treatment plan and is fighting. Denise and I thank you so much for all of your love and support and I know Brayden feels all the love and prayers and he is fighting.”

Friend Lula Buckle, 11, of Thurston Middle School, says, “Brayden is a true water boy, who always has a smile on his face, he’s funny, daring and the most amazing surfer. We are all so sad that this happened. I think about him and his family all the time. I just want to see him back in the water soon doing what he loves.” 

Brayden won the Under 13 division at the Brooks Street Classic last fall. He is the older brother of Riley, 9, and Kaley, 5, who also attend TOW. 

To contribute to the GoFundMe account, click on www.gofundme.com/brayden-belden.

Only a week after the accident, close to $130,000 has already been raised. 

Parents Matt and Denise Belden have expressed their deep gratitude for the generous contributions, as well as for everyone’s thoughts and prayers for Brayden’s full recovery.


Boys & Girls Club announce the date of their “racy” 18th Annual Art of Giving Gala: May 12 

Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach is proud to present their 18th Annual Art of Giving Gala- “And We’re Off!” on Sat, May 12, at Montage Laguna Beach. This is an event you will not want to miss, organizers say. The Club invites guests to participate in an evening that will have a Kentucky Derby-style take on Laguna Beach. 

Invitees are encouraged to dress to impress and pull out all of the stops when selecting a suit or dress for the big night. It is a chance for every female to express her inner Southern Belle, and every guy to get just as decked out as the ladies. 

Take note and do not hold back when planning your Kentucky Derby-themed wardrobe. Guests will get to indulge in the experience of this iconic American event at the finest resort. Guests will start the evening on the Montage lawn with tasty morsels and signature Southern cocktails. 

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Submitted Photo

Join the Boys & Girls Club 18th Annual Art of Giving Gala for a night of “racy” fun

The evening will continue with an elegant dinner and rousing live auction followed by dancing to some live music that will make guests feel like they are partying it up at the Downs. The events raises funds that help the Club reach more young people with the goal of instilling values of integrity, compassion and respect. 

This promises to be the event of the year, and a chance to generously support the Club and its some 2,000 youth members and families. Proceeds raised at the 18th annual Art of Giving Gala go directly towards empowering children of all ages to reach their full potential, no matter their financial situation. So mark your calendars and join the Boys & Girls Club for a dashing-filled good time at the 18th Annual Art of Giving Gala. Table sponsorships are available.

For more information about the Gala contact Michelle Ray Fortezzo at (949) 494-2535 ext. 7584, or write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit the Club website at www.bgclagunabeach.org.


Boys’ Tennis tried hard, but didn’t pull off a win against Aliso Niguel for Coach Rick’s birthday

When they faced Aliso Niguel on Thurs, the boys’ tennis team did its best to bring home a win for Coach Rick Conkey’s birthday, but instead varsity was two matches short of a tie. Mason Lebby won two of his singles matches, 6-2, 6-0. Sam Reynolds won his match, 6-0.  

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Photo by Rob Lebby

Coach Rick celebrates his birthday with his team. Pictured back to front. 

(l to r) Back: Assistant Coach Tim, JV Coach Nic Radisay, Sam Reynolds, Scott Yoder, Julius Heide, Matt Duong, Middle: Rick Conkey, Blake Hawkins, Mason Lebby, Taylor Tran, Andrew Duong, 

Front: Warren Ingersoll

Matt Berk and Andrew Duong won their exciting doubles match, 6-4. Mohammed Berri and Kyle Herkins won their doubles match, and Andrew Johnson and Blake Hawkins won a singles match each. Unfortunately, the other matches were losses.

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Photo by Rob Lebby

Mason Lebby gives his singles opponent some heat

JV won just two matches at home, but had some very exciting nail-biters. The two singles match wins were Mathew Duong and Warren Ingersoll.

Next week, the boys have three more pre-season matches: Mission Viejo, Mater Dei, and Trabuco Hills.


Troop 35’s full week with Patriots Day Parade, Annual Bridging Ceremony and celebration of Eagle Scout

This last week was a very busy one for Troop 35. On Thurs, adult leaders and many of the scouts put out the ‘No Parking’ traffic Cones along the Parade route. On Sat, two Troop 35 scouts, Logan Leeds and Stephen Jensen, had the honor of carrying the banners at the beginning of the Laguna Beach’s annual Patriots Day Parade. Scouts from Laguna Beach Troop 35 and Pack 35 followed a bit later riding on a donated Ganahl Lumber Truck, enthusiastically shouting “Who are we? Best Alive! We are Troop... 35!”

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Troop 35 scouts Andre, Kamran, Stephen, Sam, Logan & Elliott at Parade

After participating in the parade, the boys headed over to their charter organization location. They set up Tankersley Hall at The Laguna Presbyterian Churchto for Webelos II, the highest rank achieved in Cub Scouts, to join the Troop 35 in the Annual Bridging Ceremony. The Troop happily gained 12 new scouts. After the Bridging Ceremony, there was a Court of Honor, celebrating the boys who earned new rank advancement and merit badge achievement. 

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Troop 35’s new Eagle Scout, Nils Wilson, with his parents Glen & Hae Wilson.

Lastly, the Troop celebrated Nils Wilson, Laguna’s most recent Eagle Scout, in an Eagle Court of Honor. The Eagle Rank is not easily achieved as evidenced by the fact that only four percent of Boy Scouts, after a difficult review process, earn this rank. The requirements necessary to achieve this rank may take many years to fulfill.


LBHS Drama & Park Avenue Players will presents All Shook Up, opening Friday March 16, inspired by Elvis

Get ready for a rock ‘n roll musical comedy presented by LBHS Drama & Park Avenue Players. This show is inspired by and features the songs of Elvis Presley, and is based on the book by Joe DiPietro. The show will open Friday, March 16, 17, 23, and 24 with all performances taking place at 7 p.m. Two additional shows on March 18 and 25 will take place at 2:30 p.m at the Artist Theater. 

This man needs no introduction

The story is all new, the hits are all Elvis. It’s 1955, and into a square little town in a square little state rides a guitar-playing young man who changes everything and everyone he meets in this hip-swiveling, lip-curling musical fantasy that’ll have you jumpin’ out of your blue suede shoes with such classics as “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”

Tickets are on sale now: students $12, adults $17, and premium tickets $22. For more information or to purchase tickets, log onto www.lbhs.booktix.com.


SchoolPower’s Chef Challenge – one of the community’s most fun events – takes place March 26

It’s going to be a throwdown! SchoolPower’s Chef Challenge IX, hosted by Suzanne and Cary Redfearn at The Lumberyard, is coming up Monday, March 26.

Come enjoy a fabulous three-course dinner prepared by Lumberyard chefs and a friendly competition between the menu selections of LBUSD principals -- with attendees choosing the winner. 

Will it be the menu selections of elementary school principals Chris Duddy and Michael Conlon, or upper school principals Jenny Salberg and Jason Allemann?

Whoever takes home the trophy, event guests will be the real winners -- and, of course, Laguna Beach schools.   

Buy your tickets now at www.lbschoolpower.org/chefs-challenge.


Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach received $6,000 grant from the Festival of Arts Foundation

Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach is thrilled to announce the receipt of a $6,000 grant from the Festival of Arts Foundation to fund its Arts-For-All program, available to all members during their time after school. The organization believes that play and art create a healthy role in the learning and development of every child, as imagination and creativity are vital components of increasing their full potential as adults. 

The Club’s arts programing provide members with opportunities that generate ideas and enhance their ability to transform vision into a reality while navigating the world around them.

Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach is dedicated in providing a diverse array of art programs, in which each area serves our youth through exposure, education and enriching experiences. Not only do children have the opportunity to learn how to create art, but also experience the thrill of seeing their pieces displayed in onsite exhibits while entering their art into local and national art competitions.

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Boys & Girls Club members enjoying art activities at Crystal Cove

Caitlin Reller, Art Director of Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, is building fun and exciting activities related to all aspects of art and youth development, all thanks to the assistance of funding from the Festival of Art Foundation. 

As an example, during the recent Laguna Beach Unified School District’s Ski Week, Ms. Reller organized a field trip to Crystal Cove with 18 members. In collaboration with the Crystal Cove Conservancy Club, members took a tour of the park and participated in a Plein Air watercolor activity and a photographic scavenger hunt. The resulting art from these activities are on display at the Crystal Cove Gallery during Crystal Cove’s Art in the Park festival. The opening of the art exhibit is March 31 and members’ pieces will be on display for the duration of April. The Club invites the entire community to come and view the artistic talents of the participants.

The Art of Healing event on March 28 at the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, Canyon Branch, from 5 to 7 p.m. is yet another exciting event that the Festival of Arts Foundation is helping make possible. The event will be a collaborative experience where parents and children have the opportunity to come together and create art as a shared, joyful experience. Activities will include visual art, the art of cooking, creating essential oils for healing and much, much more.  The Club invites the entire community to this special event.

Without the continuing support of the Festival of Arts Foundation, these wonderful opportunities for families within the community would not be possible. For more information about the activities, please contact Michelle Ray Fortezzo at (949) 494-2535 ext. 7584 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the Club website at www.bgclagunabeach.org.


LBHS Boys Golf wins a close one against Marina High School

LBHS Boys Golf scored a big win on the road Monday against Marina High School at Meadowlark Golf Club, besting the Vikings by three strokes. Junior Chase Gioffredi was a medalist for the first time in a high school match, shooting an even par 35.

While the top of the team’s line-up played well enough to put them in position to win (Chase Gioffredi – 35, Kyle Sharp – 35, Ben Sharp – 35, Gus Morck – 42), it was senior Miles Stripling who stepped up and made the difference. Stripling stepped in to start because Dante Fornaro, the team’s #3 player, was out with an injury. 

Initially struggling off the tee with his driver, Stripling got creative and started using his hybrids and long irons off the tee. This kept him out of trouble and resulted in a score of 44, one of his better finishes. This proved to be the difference and gave the team the win in a very close, non-league match. 

Team morale is high as the Breakers look to their first league match against Calvary Chapel on Wednesday.

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