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Cross Country: Millikan, Long Beach Poly Win at Emotional Opener at El Dorado Park

The562’s coverage of cross country and track and field is sponsored by Bryson Financial.

The start of the Moore League cross country season came with big storylines as there were some fireworks as well as some history made at El Dorado Park. Long Beach Poly’s Cameron Rhone narrowly edged two-time defending league champion Jason Parra for an individual win in the boys’ race, while the Rams took the team title Wednesday for their first win over Poly in 29 seasons. On the girls’ side, Poly freshman Avery Peck led a shorthanded Jackrabbits crew to a team win while also dominating her first high school league race.

The Moore League will return to action on Oct. 11 at Signal Hill’s Discovery Well Park for the second of three league meets.

Boys’ Varsity

Poly senior Cameron Rhone edged two-time league champ and Millikan junior Jason Parra by the slimmest of margins, passing him in the three-mile race’s final strides to win 14:17.24 to 14:17.34. It was the tightest finish the Moore League has had in quite some time, but the chatter after the race wasn’t about the incredible pass at the end, but about the emotions on display between Rhone and Parra after, with Rhone gesturing at Parra with a two-fingered ‘peace’ sign and Parra taking exception.

Poly coach Cameron Ford and Millikan coach Pedro Ramirez both helped to pour some figurative cold water on their competitors after the race.

“Cam is too good of a kid,” said Ford. “It’s a rivalry of two of California’s best, and you want them to understand you’re the best in the city and two of the best in the state–that’s very, very rare to have that in Long Beach. So we’re going to set it straight. We’re so supportive of their program, they make us better–we gotta build each other up.”

“We don’t need that,” said Ramirez. “We talked to our guys already, they talked to their guys–it doesn’t matter who started it, we don’t want to return it. So that should be over.”

Rhone said his strategy was always to run with Parra and stay within striking distance, then try to outkick him down the stretch. Parra opened up a lead in the race, but Rhone saw his chance when Parra stumbled late in the race.

“He sort of tripped over a stick, and he slowed down a bit after that, and I knew that’s where I needed to make my move,” said Rhone. “I know I have a good kick down the stretch and I trusted that.”

Rhone also echoed his coach’s appreciation for the rivalry that’s developed between the Jackrabbits and Rams, even though Parra has usually ended up on top and the Rams got the team win on Wednesday.

“It’s really good to have someone that fast in your league,” said Rhone. “Usually it’s been Ronan (McMahon-Staggs) or Will Frankenfeld back in the day just way out in front. It’s more fun with competition.”

The Rams certainly gave the Jackrabbits all they could handle on Wednesday. Poly’s Luke Larson finished third behind Rhone and Parra, but then Millikan had three in a row with Jack Brown, Jacob Fujimoto, and Eric Plascencia all but assuring the Rams of a team win. Wilson’s Gus Hollister finished in eighth (15:50.58) and then it was another pair of Rams in Aiden Ransom and Michael Brief. 

Ramirez said the last time Millikan beat Poly was 29 years ago, when he was a runner for the Rams.

“We’ve been close and we’ve been getting better but the team really worked hard for this,” he said.

The top finishers for the other schools were Gabriel Rojas (Lakewood, 14th, 16:26), J’Moises Vazquez (Jordan, 22nd, 17:29), Sebastian Pardo (Cabrillo, 31st, 20:34) and Bryan Pastor (Compton, 35th, 22:26).

Girls’ Varsity

On the girls’ side, there wasn’t the same quotient of drama, but there was an equally impressive performance from a newcomer. With two-time Moore League champion Camille Lindsay sidelined with injury, it could have been assumed that the door was wide open for a league rival to take the top of the podium. But striding through that doorway was Poly freshman Avery Peck, who turned in a dominant performance to win the race in a time of 17:50.18, more than a minute faster than the next-closest competitor.

Poly coach Gabrielle Bournes said that she wasn’t surprised at Peck’s performance.

“She’s one of the most competitive people that I know,” she said. “She’s always going to push herself to the limit. Today she got to get those first league meet jitters out and just see that all her hard work is paying off.”

Peck said she had high expectations for her Moore League debut and was happy to meet them.

“I felt comfortable, it felt good to leave the pack, it gave me some confidence,” she said. Peck is planning on competing in cross country, soccer, and track and field this year and is currently training with her club soccer team in addition to the Poly cross country team. She said she hasn’t decided if she’s a runner who plays soccer or a soccer player who runs.

“Both right now, equally I think,” she said. 

Wilson’s Natalie Maahs finished second in 18:59.99 and then three Poly runners helped wrap up the team title with Evelyn Hernandez-Lujan, Brynn Jolly, and Emily Chun going 3-5. Lakewood’s Maia Lopez had a strong sixth-place showing followed by Millikan’s Yamile Rodriguez. Poly’s Maile Quinn and Alexa Bryson closed their scoring in 10th and 11th place.

VIDEO: Moore League Cross Country El Dorado Meet
PHOTOS: Moore League Cross Country El Dorado Meet
Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.