Kymber Payne
Long Beach Poly Track & Field Wilson

Long Beach Athletes Earn All-American Honors At NCAA Track Finals

EUGENE, OR — Last weekend’s NCAA Track & Field championships were memorable in a number of ways. For one, it was the last event held at historic Hayward Field on the University of Oregon’s campus, the cathedral of the sport. For another, Long Beach athletes had a great weekend and piled up a dozen All-American honors.

The Long Beach State 4×100 quartet of Courtne’ Davis, Ashleigh Chambers, Azaria Hill and Madison Golden didn’t advance out of Thursday’s preliminary round, finishing seventh in their heat—but they did shatter their own school record with a 44.59, almost a third of a second faster than their previous record.

Chambers, a Wilson alum, is the only athlete who will graduate from the quartet.

“We just wanted to keep bettering ourselves,” she said. “So when we set the school record it was just like let’s do it again.”

LBSU sprints coach LaTanya Sheffield was bursting with pride for her group.

“It means that we belong here,” she said. “We’ve earned a lane, and we did something with the opportunity.”

Also ending their seasons in prelims were Long Beach State long jumper Jason Smith and Saladin Nasser, who finished 18thand 20th, earning honorable mention All-American honors.

Long Beach Poly fans likely remember the record-setting teams that featured Ariana Washington and Kymber Payne. Now with Oregon and LSU, the duo were competing in their last college meet ever, and they went out with a bang.

Washington earned All-American honors by reaching the NCAA Finals in the 100, 200, and as the anchor of Oregon’s potent 4×100 relay. On Saturday’s championship schedule, she had an up and down performance that was indicative of what’s been a difficult year for her.

“I haven’t been hurt to where I would pull out of a race, I’ve just been dealing with a lot of little stuff,” she said. “Emotionally, too, it’s been a hard year.”

Washington ran a phenomenal anchor leg on the relay to lead the Ducks to a second-place finish and a time of 43.06. When she took the baton she was in fourth place but she caught two teams including USC, as she outleaned the Trojans’ anchor by .05 seconds.

She was frustrated by her last race, though, as she finished eighth in the 100 with a time of 11.50. The race was run in a driving rain, and Washington slipped out of the blocks—she had entered the race with the third-fastest time in the semifinals.

“It was an amazing career here, it was a great four years and a fast four years,” she said. While at Oregon Washington won 11 All-American honors, three individual NCAA titles, and four NCAA team championships.

Also earning a silver medal on the 4×100 was Long Beach native Lauren Rain Williams, who briefly attended Poly before transferring to Oaks Christian to finish her high school career. Williams ran the second leg of the relay.

Washington’s high school teammate, Payne, had a big weekend of her own. She ran the second leg on LSU’s 4×400 relay, which made it to Saturday’s championship race and finished sixth in the final race to be run at Hayward Field before the teardown began on Monday. Payne had her best finish as an individual, making the finals in the 400 hurdles and finishing third with a time of 56.88.

“I’ve run in weather before but I’ve never run on hail before,” cracked Payne after the race.

It was a wild end to Payne’s collegiate career, which wrapped with the bronze medal and her fourth All-American honor. Her birthday was earlier in the week, which meant that she was practicing with her team while wearing a birthday sash. She also said she was overcome with a wave of anxiety right before her big race.

“There’s something about the tunnel where we warm up, I don’t know,” she said. “They told us it was time to take the track and I had to throw up…I found a trash can right before. My teammate had to run and get me to make sure I didn’t miss the race.”

The other Long Beach product adding to his legacy in Eugene was Wilson alum and Iowa junior Mar’yea Harris, who has rewritten the school’s record books in the quarter mile. Harris earned three All-American honors as part of Iowa’s 4×100 and 4×400 relays, as well as competing as an individual in the 400.

It was as a solo act that he made the Finals, where he finished fourth in 45.00.

“It was a busy week but I always want to do whatever I can for my team,” he said.

Harris will join Washington and Payne at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa June 21-24 for the USA Track & Field Finals, where the best college athletes will compete against pro USA athletes.

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.