Long Beach City College inducted another star-studded class into its Hall of Champions on Friday, enshrining major figures from a number of different sports. The LBCC main gymnasium has long been known as the Hall of Champions, and its lobby includes not only trophies from the state-record 93 state championships the Vikings have claimed, but plaques for all of the Halls previous inductees.
This year’s class was Bruce Young, Michelle Nelson, John Harvey, Gary Anderson, Melissa Soria, Ron Williams, Dan Frost, and Rich Foster.
The banquet and induction ceremony was hosted on the floor of the gymnasium and was emceed by athletic director Randy Totorp and former AD Chuck McFerrin.
Young was a football standout who earned conference Defensive Player of the Year in 1987 and went on to the University of Colorado. His family has remained relevant in the city as his nephew, Poly star Gerard Wicks, had a workout for the Texans at nearby Veterans Memorial Stadium shortly before the banquet.
Young opened the banquet with the right sentiment, taking the podium, looking around, raising his hands, and yelling, “Yes!”
Nelson was a star on the track where she helped the Vikings to back-to-back sate championships in 1995 and ’96, scoring major points in the 200, 400, long jump, and both relays. Nelson went on to star at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
“This was more than just a college, the track team was an extended family,” she said.
Harvey is a Compton High alum and was a terror as a defensive end in 1979 and 1980 alongside fellow Hall of Famer and future NFLer Greg Townsend. Harvey went on to star at USC and then play for the Green Bay Packers.
“I’m missing my mom tonight,” he said. “I wish she was here. This was the first place she got to see me play football. She didn’t come to games at Compton High but she watched me here and I loved having her there and getting to see her with the other parents.”
The biggest ovation and crowd was for Gary Anderson, the legendary Vikings basketball player and coach. Anderson, a Long Beach Poly alum, played at LBCC for two years and won a state title in 1971, then returned to coach his alma mater for 40 years including 18 as head coach. He’s the only person in state history with a junior college state title as a player, assistant, and head coach and is a member of the California Community College Basketball Hall of Fame.
“It was 42 years of utter joy,” said Anderson. “I didn’t work a day in my life. I was in the right spot at the right time for the right opportunity.”
Anderson also said his wife deserved the honor more than he did for all her support and introduced each of his grandchildren.
“I’m grandpa now and that’s the biggest challenge of all,” he said.
Soria was a water polo star in 2003 and ’04, helping lead the Vikings to back-to-back state titles in those seasons. Soria went on to play at Indiana and coached in the Olympic Development program. She had an emotional story about her mother. Soria had offers to play elsewhere but chose to come to LBCC to stay closer to her mother, who had breast cancer. Her mother passed away three years later and Soria, herself, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I’m proud to say I’m now cancer free and I finish treatment next week,” she said to a loud ovation.
Williams was a track standout in 1979 who helped lead the Vikings to a state championship that year as the individual champion in the 400 and runner-up in the 200. He’s still the school record-holder in the quarter mile with a time of 45.4. Williams went on to an All-American career at USC.
Williams said it was hard coming down to LBCC because he’d been born and raised in the Valley, but that he was glad coach Ron Allice convinced him to.
“By the time I left here it was hard to leave Long Beach and go to USC,” he said. “It felt like home.”
Frost came from Millikan and quickly went from an end of the bench player to a star thanks to a well-timed growth spurt. Frost’s Vikings were state runner-ups in 1972/73 and he went on to star at Iowa and then to be drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Frost is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer but said he has faith in a positive result.
“I know it will end with a victory, like we had so many victories in this gym,” he said.
Frost also talked about how special it was to grow up in Long Beach.
“The community here is like nothing else, it’s a special place,” he said.
Perhaps no LBCC alum has had such a far-flung influence as Rich Foster, the Wilson, LBCC, and Long Beach State alum who went on to serve as president of USA Water Polo and vice president of FINA, the governing body for all international aquatic sports.
Foster won a state championship at LBCC in 1970 for coach Monte Nitzkowski before going on to Long Beach State and then a sterling law career.
Foster recalled fights that he had with the US Olympic Committee while the head of USA Water Polo as he fought for funding for the USA women’s water polo team several years before women’s water polo was added as an Olympic sport.
“Monte told me, ‘You did the right thing,’” said Foster.
Foster also said that while athletics was the linchpin of the LBCC induction ceremony, it was the Vikings academic experience that gave him the confidence in himself intellectually to rise from a C-plus GPA at Wilson to go on to law school.