Each year we present the Spirit of Long Beach award to a person or group of people that’s inspired us over the course of the school year. We’ve never spent less time deliberating the award than we did this year, in deciding to present it to Long Beach Poly junior Gabriel Tyler.
We’ve known Gabe since he was in elementary school, thanks to his older sister, Ariana Washington. She won the 100 and 200 meter state championship her sophomore, junior, and senior years at Poly, and Gabe told us each year that he was going to do the same.
It was sweet, but also a big dream. Gabe was born with cerebral palsy, and has required several surgeries on his legs just to be able to stand. But he was welcomed to the Poly track and field program with open arms, and does full workouts and practices with the rest of the Jackrabbit team.
This year, he really got to compete in a full season for the first time post-COVID, and his hard work over the last decade of his life paid off. Gabe won the 100 ambulatory event at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational, posting a strong-enough performance that he qualified for the state meet in the 100 and 400. He was fourth-place in both events at the CIF State meet, when he competed as the first-ever Jackrabbit to run in the ambulatory events at the state meet.
He’s already inspiring positive change. His mentor Poly coach Crystal Irving said she’s adding ambulatory events at the Trackrabbit Invitational next year to give more runners with disabilities a chance to post qualifying marks for the state meet. As Gabe said in Fresno this year: he might be the first Poly athlete in the ambulatory events at State, but he won’t be the last.