Somehow, PJ Jefferson still had the energy to dance.
The Iowa-bound Wilson senior put on a heroic performance on Saturday at the CIF-SS Division 1 Track & Field Finals, winning both the 300 hurdles and the 400 (becoming just the second-ever athlete to do so), and running strong legs for the Bruins’ second-place 4×100 and first-place 4×400 teams. The latter of those relays clinched the boys’ Division 1 team championship for Wilson, the Bruin boys’ first title since 1992.
It was that championship that set Jefferson dancing with his 4×400 teammates.
“I’m feeling tired, mostly,” he said when asked how he was feeling after the dancing was done. “It’s been a long day, but I’m glad I got through it and I did the best I could in every event I ran.”
A lot of Bruins did their best, as Wilson won six different events on Saturday. Their boys’ total ended up at 52 points, enough to edge Moore League foe Poly 52-47 for the Division 1 championship.
“1992, that’s almost 30 years so that’s crazy,” said Wilson coach Neil Nelson. “It’s been a year and a half of COVID, of training, not training, conditioning, not conditioning. The kids sticking by our side on zoom, with texts, with emails. People don’t understand how much hard work went into this—and the two top teams are in the same city, right down the street from each other.”
Nelson said his approach was to just keep pushing his individual athletes to perform at their peak, and he didn’t clue them in on how tight the team race was projected to be. As a result, Jefferson said he wasn’t thinking about a team championship.
“I really wasn’t thinking about point, I was just thinking about winning races for me,” he said. “Before we ran the 4×4 our coaches told us, ‘If we win this, we win the team championship.’ As soon as they said that and how long it’s been since we won it hit me, like that’s really crazy.”
Wilson went into the 4×400 needing to finish ahead of Poly and Great Oak to claim the title, and the state’s leaders did so easily, bettering their season PR with a 3:15.26 thanks to great running from Jefferson, Isaac Lewis, Leroy Crook, and Marcel Mitchell-Francis.
The Bruins also got huge points with a third-place finish in the 800 from Mitchell-Francis, who had a big PR to finish way ahead of where most pundits projected. The boys’ 400 saw 18 big points for the Bruins thanks to Jefferson’s win in 48.28 and Isaac Lewis’ 49.08, which ended up being good for second after Wilson’s Leroy Crook’s 48.61 time was DQed because officials said he stepped on the lane line too many times, a ruling the Wilson coaches vehemently disagreed with.
The Wilson girls’ had a great day as well, finishing third with 38 points, just two points behind second-place Roosevelt and 21 points behind champion Poly. The Wilson girls got a look at their bright future with underclassmen Aujane Luckey, Trinity Moseby, and Sadia Green leading the way in a championship 4×100 performance along with senior Maya Bryson.
Luckey, a sophomore, won the 400 and helped lead the 4×400 to a win as well.
“It feels amazing, being able to have this opportunity after losing last season, coming out and PRing and succeeding is so important,” said Luckey. “I think we have a special future.”
Nelson said he was especially proud of his athletes for their strong performances given how taxing the last 12 months has been, and that he was proud to see Wilson and Poly putting on for the city.
“The city of Long Beach is different,” he said. “You see Wilson winning CIF in volleyball, Poly winning CIF in basketball, and then we’re winning out here, it says a lot. Girls and boys, the future is bright, we’re both going to keep getting better. And the state of California better watch out.”
Girls’ 4×100: Wilson (Bryson, Luckey, Moseby, Green, 1st) 46.53
Boys’ 4×100: Wilson (Jefferson, Crook, Clay, Bruner, 2nd) 41.71
Girls’ 400: Aujane Luckey (Wilson, 1st) 53.94
Girls’ 400: Sadia Green (Wilson, 5th) 55.94
Boys’ 400: PJ Jefferson (Wilson, 1st) 48.28
Boys’ 400: Isaac Lewis (Wilson, 2nd) 49.08
Boys’ 400: Leroy Crook (Wilson, 3rd) 48.61 – DQed
Boys’ 800: Marcel Francis Mitchell (Wilson, 3rd) 1:55.11
Boys’ 300 Hurdles: PJ Jefferson (Wilson, 1st) 37.73
Girls’ 200: Sadia Green (Wilson, 5th) 24.66
Girls’ 4×400: Wilson (Luckey, Bryson, Green, Moseby, 1st) 3:47.79
Boys’ 4×400: Wilson (Lewis, Crook, Jefferson, Mitchell-Francis, 1st) 3:15.26