Two decades of dominance for the Long Beach Poly girls’ track and field program continued on Saturday at the CIF-SS Division 1 Track and Field Finals, as the Jackrabbit girls brought home their 21st CIF-SS championship. Only once since the year 2000 have the Poly girls failed to finish either first or second at the CIF-SS Finals, and their 21st championship makes them the winningest high school team on any campus in the city, breaking a tie with the Poly boys’ basketball program.
The championship came thanks to a banner day from Iowa-bound senior Jade McDonald, who piled up 32 points in individual events with two gold medals to help Poly to 60 points total, easily beating second-place Roosevelt. Moore League rival Wilson finished in third place with 38 points in a strong showing for the city as a whole, with Lakewood tied for fifth with 26 points.
Poly coach Crystal Irving pointed out that while her team was used to winning championships, this year was anything but routine.
“It’s been overwhelming,” she said. “We didn’t know if we’d have a season, we didn’t know if we could compete in only dual meets where Wilson would be the only competition we’d have all year. It was just trying to find ways week after week to stay motivated. This year took a lot of mental building.”
The biggest building block for Saturday’s title was McDonald, who had individual wins in the 100 hurdles and the triple jump, as well as third-place finishes in the long jump and the 300 hurdles. McDonald, a true competitor, was actually frustrated with her performance.
“It’s nice to help us get the title, but to be honest I was hoping to do better,” said McDonald. “I kept telling myself this is your ls thigh school meet so just go out and have fun, and that’s what I did. I’m really happy right now.”
McDonald said that the compressed schedule—with the lower divisions taking place at separate locations due to COVID-19 restrictions—put some extra pressure on her, as she had to run the 100 hurdles just seconds after finishing the triple jump.
“I didn’t have any warm up at all, I just had to hurry and go and then I had barely any time after my 100 hurdles before the threes,” she said. “If I would have had like ten minutes that would have been different, but it is what it is.”
McDonald wasn’t the only individual champion on the girls’ side, as junior Zharia Taylor grabbed a win in the high jump with a clearance over 5-6.
“I had a great day, I’m really glad I got to contribute to my team getting a title and I’m glad that I ended the season being Division 1 champion,” said Taylor.
Senior Destiny Okoh came through with a fourth-place discus performance, four spots higher than she was seeded, and junior Aniyah Wyche showed she’s one to watch out for next year with a second-place finish in the 100. The only missteps for the Jackrabbits all day were a DQ in the girls’ 4×100 for a late exchange in the first zone, and only getting seven points in the high jump on the boys’ side, where top-seeded Miguel Orozco struggled.
“There were a lot of PRs today, maybe that’s not big to other people, but it was big to us,” said Irving. “To see the girls rally after the 4×1, when your team rallies and supports you, that’s what it’s all about. Because we’re building young people not just young athletes.”
Senior Malik Harness grabbed the other individual gold for Poly with a big win in the 200; Harness also took fourth in the 100.
After the Poly girls won and the boys were runner-ups to Wilson, there was a big celebration on field that culminated in the two programs taking a group picture. Both Irving and Wilson head coach Neil Nelson expressed their pride at seeing their teams come together after years of animosity.
“This is very special, because when Papa Don was coaching Poly and Terry Kennedy was the head coach at Wilson, Neil and I were the assistant varsity coaches all those years,” she said. “There were times where there was just this huge rivalry. And I told Neil, when I become head coach we’re coming to California Relays, we’re coming to support your meets and I need you to support us. We need to support each other because that’s what it’s about. Yeah, we’re rivals and we rise to that competition but at the same time we’re from Long Beach.”
Girls’ 4×100: Long Beach Poly (Reed, Reed, Wyche, Johnson, 8th) – DQed
Boys’ 4×100: Long Beach Poly (Knox, Harness, Hampton, Dickens, 4th) 42.23
Girls’ 100 Hurdles: Jade McDonald (Poly, 1st) 13.89
Boys’ 100 Hurdles: Keylen Dickens (Poly, 3rd) 14.67
Girls’ 100: Aniyah Wyche (Poly, 2nd) 11.96
Boys’ 100: Malik Harness (Poly, 4th) 10.64
Girls’ 300 Hurdles: Jade McDonald (Poly, 3rd) 43.86
Boys’ 300 Hurdles: Je’Cory Harris (Poly, 4th) 39.43
Boys’ 300 Hurdles: Keylen Dickens (Poly, 8th) 41.18
Boys’ 200: Malik Harness (Poly, 1st) 21.17
Girls’ 4×400: Long Beach Poly (Taylor, Hunter, Butler, Reed, 5th) 4:02.48
Boys’ 4×400: Long Beach Poly (Harness, Mejia, Dunomes, Williams, 2nd) 3:19.31
Girls’ Long Jump: Jade McDonald (Poly, 3rd) 18-1.75
Girls’ Long Jump: Lauren Reed (Poly, 8th) 17-3
Girls’ Triple Jump: Jade McDonald (Poly, 1st) 40-2.5
Girls’ High Jump: Zharia Taylor (Poly, 1st) 5-6
Girls’ Discus: Destiny Okoh (Poly, 4th) 131-3