All City Lakewood Long Beach Poly Millikan St. Anthony Wilson

The562.org’s Athletes of the Year

This week we continue an eight-year long tradition of presenting the Grunion Sports and The562.org’s All-City Awards, a revival of a beloved city tradition. This week we’ll present our individual All-City Athletes of the Year awards to the top performers in each sport, then next week we’ll name our top boy and girl athlete of the year, as well as our other awards including Team of the Year and Game of the Year.

Like last year, this was a year to remember for the Long Beach sports scene. Unlike last year, it was a story with a happy ending as all but one of the high school sports were able to play a season, and the city brought home six CIF Southern Section championships plus a CIF State Southern California Regional title thanks to three title wins from Long Beach Poly, and two apiece from Wilson and Millikan.

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These awards are also available in print form if you pick up a copy of the Grunion Gazette on stands now–it’s free!

Boys Badminton: Nathan Monh, Lakewood 

Lakewood’s Nathan Monh won the Moore League badminton singles title with a come-from-behind victory over Poly’s Prongha Talukder, dropping the first set 21-13 before rallying to win the second and third 21-18, 21-12.

“I kept telling myself, just keep going, play the long game,” said Monh.

Monh utilized a light touch and a powerful smash in the win, and said the COVID-19 shutdown last year motivated him in the win. “I finally got to play, and it feels really rewarding to win it.”

Girls Badminton: Karah Sek, Poly 

Poly senior Karah Sek had a remarkable comeback in the Moore League badminton singles finals, dropping the first set 22-20 before rallying to win 21-7, 21-12 to claim the championship with a win over Lakewood’s Sophie Vikram. 

“We were undefeated last year before COVID, so I really wanted to win this for last year’s seniors,” said Sek. “I feel great, I worked really hard for this.”

Baseball: Myles Patton, Millikan

The junior southpaw seemed to get better every time he took the mound in 2021, and his performance over the last few weeks of the baseball season will be remembered in Millikan Baseball lore for years to come. Patton was named the Moore League Pitcher of the Year, and that honor was well-deserved. In 14 appearances this season, Patton posted a 1.17 ERA and had a remarkable 97 strikeouts in 71.2 innings pitched. He dazzled with 14 strikeouts in 5.2 innings against Wilson in his first start on Bohl Diamond at Blair Field, and then took his game to another gear in the playoffs. In 28 postseason innings, Patton allowed just two earned runs on 15 hits, walking just two batters while piling up 39 strikeouts. Not surprisingly, recruiting interest picked up for Patton after every one of his starts, and he ultimately committed to Long Beach State towards the end of the season.

Boys Basketball: Peyton Watson, Poly 

Although Long Beach basketball fans only got to see him in seven games this season, there’s no doubt about who the best basketball player in Long Beach was this year. Long Beach Poly senior Peyton Watson was California’s only McDonald’s All-American, and the UCLA signee departed his senior season early to train for the USA Basketball U19 team; after making the roster, he took off for Latvia where he’s trying to help the youth national team win a gold medal. Watson said he was grateful that he got to play some games with a Poly jersey on this year, and his highlight-filled games certainly left local fans wanting more–fortunately for them he’s just up the street at the Pauley Pavilion next year. Last year’s All-City Athlete of the Year across all sports, Watson is also projected as a high pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Girls Basketball: Lily Buggs, Poly

The co-Moore League Player of the Year, Long Beach Poly senior Lily Buggs had another season to remember. After missing her sophomore season with a knee injury, Buggs was the league’s best player each of the last two years. This season she led Poly to an 18-2 record, as well as Moore League, CIF-SS Division 1, and CIF State SoCal Division 1 championships. Buggs averaged 16.4 points per game, 8.7 rebounds per game, 2.6 steals per game, and 1.7 assists per game, leading the Jackrabbits in scoring and rebounding. Buggs is signed with Cal State LA, where she will continue her excellent hoops career; she also received CIF-SS Division 1 Player of the Year honors.

Girls Basketball: Ashley Hawkins, Wilson 

Wilson senior Ashley Hawkins is graduating and heading off to play college hoops in the Big West at Cal State Northridge, but Hawkins and the rest of the Bruin seniors leave behind an impressive legacy. Hawkins was named co-Moore League Player of the Year in honor of a career that saw her help lead Wilson to a CIF-SS title last year, and saw her average 17.8 points per game this year, per the team’s MaxPreps page. Hawkins also earned respect across the city for a flashy and fun style on the court.

Boys Cross Country: Jason Parra, Millikan

Parra only lost one race during league play, and was the Moore League individual champion by a comfortable 10-second margin. The highly touted freshman capped off his debut campaign with the Rams by running a 15:06 at league finals to finish ahead of teammate Scott Kirchoff and Poly sophomore Cameron Rhone. It was an impressive bounceback performance from Parra, who had been caught by Rhone just before the finish line during the Millikan/Poly dual meet two weeks prior.

Girls Cross Country: Camille Lindsay, Poly

The sophomore Lindsay remains the top distance runner in the city, and really proved that during track season, winning the 800m, 1600m, and 3200m races at league finals. She’s the first runner in recent memory–and possibly ever–to pull off that feat, and her cross country season wasn’t too bad, either. Lindsay breezed through the dual meet season, winning every race in league play, and still had a strong fourth-place finish at league finals despite running with an obvious ankle injury that significantly slowed her pace. As long as she stays healthy, Lindsay will be the favorite in the Moore League for the next two years in cross country.

Football: Bryun Parham, Poly

The greatest compliment the old heads around the Long Beach Poly football team can pay to a current player is “he could have played in my era.” That’s a compliment that was regularly bestowed on Poly linebacker Bryun Parham, this year’s Moore League Player of the Year and a hard-hitter who led with both his heart and his smarts. Parham led the undefeated Jackrabbits in tackles, tackles for a loss, and sacks this year, and had the biggest hit of the game in every game he played in. Parham signed with San Jose State, where he will continue his football career this Fall.

Boys Golf: Matthew Schafer, Wilson

The Schafer family has won four of the last five Moore League boys’ golf individual finals after Matthew Schafer followed in his brother Tyler’s footsteps this year. Also just like his brother, Matthew is humble while trying to make history.

“I played pretty solid,” Schafer said. “I was obviously hoping to break my brother’s record, I was just trying to shoot as low as possible. After the first few days I figured I had it in the bag so I was just trying to go low and hopefully get close to his record.”

Although this 16-stroke victory didn’t quite reach his brother Tyler’s record of 16-under, Schafer’s win made him and his brother the first set of Wilson brothers to win the title since Will and George Madrid in 2004.

Girls Golf: Emi Sverduk, Wilson 

It’s fair to say that Emi Sverduk won everything she could over the last few months. The Wilson junior won her second Moore League individual title and then won the CIF State Southern California Regional championship. She also took the medalist honors at the Edison Invitational and tied Ali Morallos’ school-record low round of 33 at Recreation Park Golf Course during league play. Wilson has the last nine consecutive league champions.

“She truly has a very strong mental game and stayed calm throughout focusing on each shot,” Wilson coach Jeff Evans said of Sverduk after her CIF State win. “This has been normal for her especially over the past couple months her golf has been really solid.”

 

Boys Lacrosse: Kyle Johnson, Poly

Johnson was the heart and soul of Long Beach Poly’s Moore League championship squad, serving as the team’s last line of defense in goal. The Jackrabbits went unbeaten in league play to claim the city’s first ever boys’ lacrosse championship, then went on to make more history with a win in the CIF playoffs. The senior had 16 or more saves in each of Poly’s last five games of the season, including 20 stops in their season finale in the CIF-SS playoffs. Johnson will continue his lacrosse career at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Boys Soccer: Omar Juarez, Poly 

There was one boys’ soccer player who was at a different level this season and that was Poly midfielder Omar Juarez. The Moore League Co-Most Valuable Player of the Year came back from his club academy program to help the Jackrabbits repeat as league champions. Juarez used his imposing stature and smarts to orchestrate the devastating Poly counter attack.

“He’s a man playing with boys and he’s just a junior,” Poly coach Eric Leon said of Juarez. “He’s a special talent and we’re glad to have him. He’s a perfect compliment to the kids that we have.”

Boys Soccer: Jesus Moreno, Millikan 

The second half of the Co-Most Valuable Player of the Year award went to the most consistent goal scorer in the league and that was Jesus Moreno. The senior captain scored seven goals and dished out seven assists in the 18 games this season, and was always the focal point for the Millikan opposition defense. Millikan coach Jeff Schofield called Moreno a “difference maker” after he scored two goals in a win at Jordan early in the season, and he continued to prove his coach right.

Girls Soccer: Courtney Cummings, Millikan 

The statistics speak for themselves when it comes to Courtney Cummings’ senior season at Millikan. The Moore League Co-Offensive Player of the Year scored a league-high 26 goals and supplied 14 assists in 15 games while helping the Rams win a third consecutive league title. Cummings said her team improved on and off the field to win the championship again.

“We were a totally different team in the second round,” she said. “We did a lot of team building and we really connected that way–we put in the work to do that. And I think that really helped us.”

Cummings is going to attend Brown University.

Girls Soccer: Kelsey Adams, Poly

Long Beach Poly senior Kesley Adams was the co-Moore League Offensive Player of the Year with Cummings, and was a firecracker herself with 21 goals for the Jackrabbits. Adams, a Pepperdine signee, scored a pair of goals for Poly in a 3-1 win over Wilson that helped clinch a co-Moore League championship with the Rams. Her first goal came in the 14th minute, and she said that the team was confident after she scored that they’d win their first league title in five years.

“I knew going into it, we needed to get the first goal in order to set the tone,” said Adams after the match. “So right when we started it off, I knew we were gonna win. And me and Liv had been having combinations throughout the game, so it was just a matter of time.”

Softball: Kendall Lundberg, Lakewood

This softball season was defined by its unexpected results, but the most consistent player in the area was Lakewood’s Kendall Lundberg. The senior catcher has been a cornerstone for the Lancers and hit .452 this season with eight home runs, 32 RBIs and 28 runs scored in 73 at-bats. Lundberg also had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage behind the plate while throwing out all eight would-be base stealers against her. She signed her National Letter of Intent a few months ago and will be attending Utah in the Pac-12 Conference.

Boys Swimming: Hank Rivers, Wilson 

It was another historic season for Wilson junior Hank Rivers, who helped lead the Wilson boys’ swim team to a state record 48th consecutive league championship. Rivers broke league record in the 200 individual medley, the 100 breaststroke, and the 400 freestyle relay at league finals. Rivers, who is verbally committed to swim for Cal, said that the local history means a lot to him, even with his eyes set on accomplishments far beyond them.

“I think about that all of the time,” Rivers said of the history. “I want to include myself with all of the great swimmers (from Long Beach) and people from the aquatic family that have been through this program. I want to be part of that and it’s really something special. It’s motivation.”

Girls Swimming: Sammie Hamilton, Wilson 

The top freshman in the city in any sport, Wilson frosh Sammie Hamilton burst onto the high school scene this year with some memorable performances in the pool. In her first high school meet, against Wilson’s rival Poly, Hamilton won the 200 free and 500 free, and also swam strong legs on the 200 medley and 400 free relays. She went on to win the 200 and 500 free at league finals also anchoring Wilson to a team win in the 400 free relay. 

Girls Swimming: Trinity Salcedo, Poly

Long Beach Poly junior Trinity Salcedo helped lead the Jackrabbits to a historic fifth-consecutive Moore League championship this season. Salcedo delivered two individual wins as well as an important leg in a 200 medley relay win to help bring home the team title. She also won the 100 fly and the 200 IM.

“This was a really, really big day, for all of us on the team,” said Salcedo at league finals. “Wow. I don’t even have words to describe how great it feels to be a part of something like this. We’ve been working so hard, and it’s been so hard with the pandemic as well.”

Boys Tennis: Andy Nguyen, Millikan

Nguyen continued a proud family tradition of winning the Moore League tennis title for Millikan, as he became the fourth sibling in his family to claim the league’s individual crown. Nguyen was unbeaten as a freshman before the season was canceled, and he continued that into his sophomore year when he posted an unbeaten run through the league finals. Nguyen only dropped three games in the entire tournament, beating teammate Nolan Alvarez 6-0, 6-2 in the championship match. Nguyen also played in the top singles spot while leading Millikan to its first ever CIF title in boys’ tennis back in May.

Girls Tennis: Maddie Tadd, Wilson 

A loss is only worth what you get out of it, and Maddie Tadd got a lot out of her loss in the 2019 Moore League girls’ tennis singles final. She was overmatched at the net by CAMS star Jodi Chang, but when she faced a similarly strong player in Millikan sophomore Kailee Mazzeo this year, Tadd was happy to take a veteran approach. The Wilson senior stayed on the baseline and outlasted Mazzeo for the 6-4, 3-6, 10-7 victory that included an intense tiebreaker.

“I’m just so happy I was able to come out on top,” Tadd said. “Last year I lost all of my confidence. This year, even if I lost a few points, I just kept hitting my shots and stayed confident. That really changed it a lot. I just have to stay positive in my mind and not be mean to myself.”

Boys Track & Field: PJ Jefferson, Wilson 

Wilson senior PJ Jefferson was the highlight of a magical season for the Bruins boys’ track and field team. Jefferson, who is signed with Iowa for college, won the CIF-SS Division 1 titles in the 300 hurdles and the 400, becoming just the second-ever athlete to do so in one meet. Jefferson had a busy day as he also ran a leg on Wilson’s championship 4×400 relay and on the Bruins’ second-place 4×100 relay. In all he ran 1200 meters at league finals, claiming three golds and helping his team win their first CIF-SS D1 title in 20 years.

“I’m feeling tired, mostly,” he said when asked how he was feeling after the celebratory 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.”

Girls Track & Field: Jade McDonald, Poly 

Joining Jefferson in Iowa will be Long Beach Poly senior Jade McDonald, who also made some history this year and who also led her team to a CIF-SS D1 title. McDonald won the triple jump and the 100 hurdles championships, and also finished third in the long jump and the 300 hurdles. Her 32 points scored in individual events is one of the highest point totals ever recorded at the Division 1 Finals meet by an athlete (specifically because McDonald did not run on any relays). It was especially impressive considering that McDonald’s compressed schedule didn’t allow almost any recovery time.

“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 of the long jump. “If I would have had like ten minutes that would have been different, but it is what it is.”

Girls Track & Field: Asjah Atkinson, St. Anthony 

St. Anthony senior Asjah Atkinson is the other deserving winner of an All-City Athlete of the Year recognition. Atkinson has been a four-year star at St. Anthony, and goes down as the most decorated athlete in her sport in school history despite having her junior year taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic and despite missing out on a state meet this year. She won the 100 and 300 hurdles as well as the long jump at the CIF-SS Division 4 finals, and was on the Saints’ third-place 4×100 team. Her points helped the Saints claim the silver team plaque despite having only four athletes competing. Atkinson also doubled up at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational with a pair of individual wins there.

“I haven’t been 100% and I’m bittersweet about this being my final meet with St. Anthony, but the team finish made everything worth it,” she said after the CIF-SS meet.

Boys Volleyball: Leo Pravdednikov, Wilson

Pravednikov was Wilson’s big weapon on the outside, and was a main factor in the Bruins’ unbeaten run to a Division 3 CIF championship. The 6-foot-3 outside hitter was named the Moore League Player of the Year, and he posted some huge numbers for Wilson throughout the season. Pravednikov led the team with 174 kills, averaging a team-best 4.0 kills per set.  The junior had double-digit kills in all but two matches during the season, including a season-best 20 kills in Wilson’s crucial five-set quarterfinal win at Westlake. He also had multiple aces in nine different matches during the year, and reached double figures in digs on three separate occasions.

Boys Water Polo: Gray Carson, Wilson 

For the second consecutive year Gray Carson was the most dominant Moore League boys’ water polo player on both ends of the pool. The junior can square up defensively with just about anyone, plus he scored 22 goals in eight games for the Bruins this season. Wilson once again went undefeated in league action this year, and Carson leads a very talented and experienced Class of 2022 that has high hopes for their upcoming senior season.

Girls Water Polo: Ava Bishop, Wilson

The Wilson girls’ water polo team was dominant during the abbreviated Moore League season, and senior Ava Bishop was the clear-cut standout, earning league Player of the Year honors. She had a hat trick in the first quarter against Millikan and finished with five goals, and had a hat trick in the first two minutes of the game against Poly. Bishop said she was happy to have had the chance to play as a senior.

“I’m so grateful as a senior to be out here because I didn’t think I’d get to play again,” she said. “We have some really good freshmen and I didn’t think I’d ever get to play with them. I was in disbelief when I heard we got to play, I was so excited. I really thought it had ended a year ago, I didn’t want to get my hopes up.”

Boys Wrestling: Trevor Thompson, Millikan 

This was an easy selection because it’s an award for the full body of work that Trevor Thompson compiled at Millikan. He is the first wrestler in the history of the Moore League to win four league titles and the Wrestler of the Year helped the Rams reach the CIF championship meet. According to his coach and dad Marshall Thompson, Trevor won 161 of his 213 matches in high school. He won 100 of them via pin, and also collected 13 tournament titles. His plan is to come back and help his dad coach his younger brother Sean next year.

Girls Wrestling: Sofia Miller & Peyton Roberts, Millikan 

The Millikan girls’ wrestling season even happening was amazing considering all of the hurdles that had to be cleared, but when they hit the mat seniors Sophia Miller and Peyton Roberts made the most of the opportunity. Miller won all of her Moore League matches at 126 pounds, and Roberts did the same at 121 pounds while being named the league Wrestler of the Year. Miller was Wrestler of the Year as a junior. The co-team captains were both ranked in CIF State and led the Rams to the CIF quarterfinals.