Long Beach high school teams won an unprecedented nine CIF-SS championships in 2021, so there was a lot of competition for the top sports moment of the year. But one day stood above the rest: the CIF Southern Section track and field championships, which saw an LBC double-up at the Division 1 meet, with the Poly girls and Wilson boys taking home both gold plaques. That’s why it’s our top Long Beach sports moment of 2021.
No other sport in Long Beach can keep up with the city’s track and field teams, and adding to an already memorable day was the Poly boys finishing second and the St. Anthony girls claimed the silver plaque in Division 4. Lakewood had an individual CIF-SS champion in Cherish Washington and Jordan’s Xavier Heard broke school records in the throws at the CIF-SS Finals meet, on a day that saw six top-five team finishes across the boys’ and girls’ team competitions.
Wilson coach Neil Nelson was emotional after watching his boys’ team claim their first title since 1992, led by PJ Jefferson, an ebullient young man who made history as he won the 300 hurdles and the 400 golds. Jefferson also ran strong legs on Wilson’s second-place 4×100 and first-place 4×400 relays.
“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.”
The Poly girls were led by a historic performance from Jade McDonald, who is joining Jefferson at the University of Iowa this year. McDonald won the 100 hurdles and the triple jump and finished third in the long jump and the 300 hurdles, piling up 32 points as an individual. It’s been quite a run for the Poly girls track team, which claimed their city-leading 21st CIF-SS championship–only once since 2000 have the Jackrabbit girls finished below first or second place.
“It’s been overwhelming,” said Poly coach Crystal Irving of what it was like to compete during COVID. “We didn’t know if we’d have a season.”
Nelson said that with Wilson and Poly’s athletes being on the younger side, everyone can expect more golden finishes from Speed City.
“The city of Long Beach is different,” he said. “Girls and boys, the future is bright, we’re both going to keep getting better. And the state of California better watch out.”