Long Beach Poly Track & Field Wilson

Wilson, Poly Split Thrilling Moore League Track & Field Championship

Last week’s track and field dual meet between Long Beach Poly and Wilson felt like stepping back in time. There were near-biblical winds, which had destroyed Poly’s pole vault and high jump standards, and the races were being hand-timed. With the Jackrabbits and Bruins two of the very best programs in California, there was statewide media on hand as well, watching the best league meet that will happen anywhere this spring–the two teams have 33 top 10 marks between them this year.

The Long Beach Poly boys’ track and field team won another Moore League title, extending a league-record streak of titles that dates back to 1995, when the Bruins won it. The Jackrabbits won by a score of 75-42, and had a big enough lead on Wednesday that they didn’t need to continue the meet with the pole vault and high jump. Poly and Wilson are two of the top five teams in the state and will both compete for multiple CIF-SS, Masters, and State championships this year.

On the girls’ side, there was high drama and excitement, and one of the most unique events in the long and storied history of the Moore League. Poly and Wilson were only eight points apart with Wednesday’s events at their finish, thanks in part to dominant performances from Rachel Glenn, but also a great day from Naomi Kilson, who finished second in the 100 and the 200.

With the Jackrabbits up by eight points and 18 points still remaining in the high jump and pole vault, it was decided to hold a continuation meet at Wilson the next afternoon. Each individual event in league is worth nine points, with the first-place athlete getting five for their team, the second place athlete getting three, and the third place getting one point.

As expected, reigning state high jump champion Rachel Glenn easily won the high jump the next day; Poly took second and third, which meant Wilson trailed by seven points going into the pole vault. Athletes on both teams admitted that neither team had true competitive pole vaulters, which created a fascinating scene: two of the very best teams in the country decided their league championship with essentially the only event that neither of them are dominant in.

The pole vault bar was set at five feet, the lowest it could go on the vaulting apparatus. Poly’s collection of cross country, soccer, and track athletes weren’t able to get over it. Wilson’s Ryhan Pitts, Skylah Murray, Angelina Verdugo, and Angelina Chavez all cleared the minimum height, giving Wilson a nine-point sweep and a dramatic, memorable two-point win. That gives Wilson their first Moore League title since 2009, snapping a nine-year Poly run.

Asked to sum up the day’s drama in one word, Wilson coach Neil Nelson smiled. “One word–rivalry,” he said. “Maybe pasion. Intensity. I’m so proud of my kids, they were all willing to do whatever they could for their team. They brought their girls, we brought ours, and we came out on top.”

“Number one, it’s about the kids and them having a chance to compete fairly,” said Poly coach Crystal Irving. “At the end of the day the better team won, which was Wilson.”

Both coaches have been around their programs for two decades plus as coaches or as athletes, and said they’d both seen some crazy moments in the long and ongoing rivalry between them. But this year’s league title is up there with just about anything.

After a tense and dramatic day, both coaches had high praise for each other’s teams. “I don’t think this will have an effect on what we want to do at CIF or State,” said Irving. “We have relays and individuals we expect to do very well. For Wilson: they’ve got some great athletes and relays as well. Rachel Glenn is a powerhouse in herself, she’s an outstanding athlete and I know anything she does will turn to gold.”

“Now that the league team race is over, I know we’ll be rooting for them, and they’ll be rooting for us,” said Nelson. “Now it’s time for Long Beach vs. everybody.”

The Moore League track and field individual finals will be held at Wilson Thursday at 3 p.m. with CIF-SS prelims, CIF-SS Finals, CIF-SS Masters, and CIF State Finals to follow in the month to come.

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.
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