It’s a cliche that a good high school sports program is like a family, but it’s also true. Like any family, the Long Beach Poly boys’ cross country team has some traditions. For example: the Wednesday before Thanksgiving they met at Bolsa Chica for a three-mile tempo run, and then retreated to Nick’s in Seal Beach for some breakfast burritos. That’s a bona fide tradition now since they’ve done it five times this decade, as part of their run-up to an appearance in the CIF State Cross Country Finals.
Poly will run at 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning at the meet in Clovis, hoping to bring home some hardware in the best high school cross country state final in America. Having made the trip to State last year (as well as the trip to Bolsa Chica and Nick’s), this is Poly’s first consecutive appearance in the State finals since 2001 and 2002.
“These guys really wanted it,” said Poly coach Mike Fillipow, now in his 16th season running the program. “It was a big part of their drive coming off of last year. A lot of people thought with three good seniors graduating that we wouldn’t be back.”
As the team marched through their other annual traditions (training over the summer in the mountains, early season runs at big races like Woodbridge) it became obvious they had the talent to do it. Last week they easily qualified by taking fourth in the CIF-SS Division 1 Finals, with senior Will Frankenfeld winning the individual championship.
Like any other family, there’s plenty of sibling rivalry. Junior Ronan McMahon-Staggs jokingly (or not jokingly) promised at Nick’s this week that he’d beat Frankenfeld on Saturday.
“Put a lot of money on that,” he said before sitting down to his breakfast burrito.
The Jackrabbits also got to spend time with some big brothers. Not just recent alums and assistant coaches Cameron Ford and Eric Riehl, but also alum Pedro Ramos, who hosted the team for lunch at his house in Bakersfield on their way up to Clovis on Friday.
If it sounds like the team eats together a lot, that’s because they do.
“They’re hungry,” said Ford.
“Any time you involve food in the run, it makes it more spirited,” said Fillipow with a smile. So does running with family, something the Jackrabbits will do together for the final time this season on Saturday morning.