This is the eighth year of the revived All-City Awards, which resurrect a decades-long tradition of honoring the city’s best high school athletes. Last week we looked at the top athletes in each sport, and in this week’s issue we present other awards including Game of the Year and Coach of the Year.
The centerpiece of the All-City Awards is the two All-City Athletes of the Year, the top boys’ and girls’ athletes in the city this year. In the last eight years, All-City Athletes of the Year have gone on to be Pro Bowlers, Olympians, and NCAA champions. We’re sure big things are in store for this year’s honorees, as well.
Peyton Watson, Long Beach Poly, Basketball
There’s no bigger name in high school sports in Long Beach right now than Peyton Watson. The Long Beach Poly junior was the Moore League Player of the Year after a season-long show that saw him flash everything you’d want from an elite high school player. From highlight dunks to highlight blocks, he drew national attention and will enter his senior season this year as the No. 8-ranked player in the nation according to 247 Sports, with scholarship opportunities at any college in the country.
In one noteworthy play, Watson missed a 3-point shot from the top of the arc, then charged the rim and dunked his own miss. The play went viral online and was picked up nationally by several outlets.
In a regular season finale that Poly had to win against Millikan to clinch an 11th consecutive league title, Watson put up 28 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, and two highlight-reel dunks. After the game, Watson said:
“We weren’t going to lose the title. That wasn’t an option. Coach Shell told me before the game if we lost tonight I wouldn’t be MVP of the Moore League. I told myself when I was in 8th grade that I wanted to be the MVP of this league in my city. I had fun tonight. I love going into other people’s gyms and beating them.”
He’s elected to not follow the usual route and transfer to a prep school–he’s decided to spend his senior season at his hometown school. For his promise as well as his passion, competitiveness, and Long Beach spirit, we’re proud to name Peyton Watson our All-City Athlete of the Year.
Tiare Jennings, St. Anthony, Softball
One of the great regrets of the 2020 COVID-19 shutdowns is that we’ll forever be deprived of how good this year’s St. Anthony softball team was going to be, led by its superstar top player, Tiare Jennings.
The senior is off to play for the University of Oklahoma, but all we got this year was a glimpse of what looked like a historic season. In just eight games, Jennings had 22 hits, 19 RBIs, 18 runs, and six home runs. She hit .710 with a 1.483 slugging percentage, and was named Gatorade Softball Player of the Year for the state of California.
“It was very emotional and I’m super happy representing myself and Long Beach and St. Anthony,” said Jennings of the award.
Jennings was the consensus top-ranked infielder in the nation, and has a chance to make a huge impact right away at Oklahoma. That’s saying something since the Sooners have been in the national championship game three of the last four years, with two wins.
Jennings was honest about her disappointment at losing her senior season, saying she’ll always wonder about how good her team was going to be this year. She knows she’s onto bigger and better things, but said losing the opportunity to win a CIF ring with her young sister, a freshman at St. Anthony this year, is something she’ll always miss.
That hometown pride was evident in her decision to play volleyball all four years at St. Anthony as well, a rare decision for an athlete who already has a scholarship offer in hand.
For her elite talent and impressive humility, for the things she accomplished as well as the things she didn’t get a chance to, we’re proud to recognize Tiare Jennings as our All-City Athlete of the Year.
All-City Athletes of the Year
2014: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ariana Washington
2015: Daniel McArthur, Imani McDonald
2016: Jack Jones, Ali Morallos
2017: Sam Lewis, Ayanna Clark
2018: Tyler Schafer, Ariyonna Augustine
2019: Will Frankenfeld, Rachel Glenn
2020: Peyton Watson, Tiare Jennings