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The Long Beach Poly girls’ track and field team is the most consistent dynasty in Long Beach high school sports history. The Jackrabbits have piled up 21 CIF-SS titles, more than any other team in city history, and have been the champions or runner-ups in Division 1 at the CIF-SS Finals all but one year since 2000.
They weren’t able to add to their golden haul on Saturday, but the Jackrabbits did bring home a silver plaque after a one-point defeat to Roosevelt, 61-60, that came down to the final race of the day. The Roosevelt 4×400 was able to edge the Jackrabbits for second place and the team title.
“Honestly, the things that have happened with our team in the last few weeks, we’re just really blessed to be where we are,” said Poly head coach Crystal Irving. “The fact that none of these babies have been to the state meet, only a couple to CIF, I’m really proud of my team. The fact that we have some freshmen who have never been in such a big meet with that type of pressure, it just makes us better for next time.”
That doesn’t mean there weren’t a ton of bright spots for the Jackrabbits. On the girls’ side, the lion’s share of the points were scored by underclassmen, including a surprise championship in the high jump by freshman Jillene Wetteland, who announced herself as a force to be reckoned with after a 5-8 clearance gave her the gold in Moorpark.
Sophomore Mai Ricks was also a standout in the throws, powering Poly with a fourth-place finish in the discus and a sixth-place finish in the shot put.
Senior Lauren Reed led the way for the Jackrabbits, with a great leg on the squad’s gold-medal 4x100 relay to start the day, a second-place finish in the triple jump, and fifth in the long jump. Sophomore Taylor Johnson didn’t have her strongest performances but was a double-qualifier in the 100 and 200.
On the boys’ side, Poly has been beset late in the season by a variety of stumbling blocks including a COVID-19 scratch after the CIF-SS prelims. The boys' 4x100 relay also got things off to an inauspicious start with a mishandled exchange that took the favored Jackrabbits out of the race. The brightest note was the performance of senior Jaelen Knox, who was a CIF-SS champ in the 200 with a 20.77 and runner-up in the 100 with 10.39; Knox will be a threat in both events at CIF-SS Masters and State.
"I'm really proud of Jaelen Knox, coming out and running so relaxed, but just running so amazing all day," said Irving. "And I told him, even though our boys' 4x1 didn't do as well as we expected, he still ran a hell of a leg when it was his turn."
With so many freshmen and other returners contributing to Saturday's runner-up performance, there's room for growth not just the rest of this season, but into the future for this storied program.
“We have a very bright future," Irving said. "We're very excited about the potential, and what can happen not just in the next two weeks, but within the next few years."
Long Beach Poly (Division 1)
Girls’ 4×100 1st, 46.60
Boys’ 4×100 DQ
Boys’ 400: Xai Ricks, 4th, 49.06
Girls’ 100: Aniyah Wyche, 3rd, 11.81
Girls’ 100: Taylor Johnson, 9th 12.16
Boys’ 100: Jaelen Knox, 2nd, 10.39
Boys’ 800: Nick Mejia, 8th 1:56.68
Girls’ 200: Taylor Johnson, 7th, 24.74
Boys’ 200: Jaelen Knox, 1st, 20.77
Girls’ 4×400 3rd, 3:50.96
Boys’ 4×400 3rd, 3:20.33
Girls’ High Jump: Jillene Wetteland, 1st, 5-8
Girls’ High Jump: Zharia Taylor, 3rd, 5-6
Girls’ Long Jump: Lauren Reed, 5th, 19-6.25
Girls’ Long Jump: Alyssa Perkins, 9th, 17-9
Girls’ Triple Jump: Lauren Reed, 2nd, 39-7.5
Girls’ Shot Put: Mai Ricks, 6th, 36-11.5
Girls’ Discus: Mai Ricks, 4th, 118-9