The562’s coverage of cross country and track and field is sponsored by Bryson Financial.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Poly alum Jayon Brown and PlayFair Sports Management.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by JuJu Smith-Schuster and the JuJu Foundation.
It was a comeback for the ages.
The Long Beach Poly girls’ cross country team entered the CIF-SS Division 1 Cross Country Finals at Mt. SAC on Saturday ranked No. 10, well outside of a spot that would qualify them for the CIF State meet since only the top seven teams advance. One mile into the three-mile race, the Jackrabbits were dead last out of 16 teams in the field; two miles in they were in ninth.
But the results aren’t tallied by the way teams start–it’s how they finish. And the Jackrabbit girls had the most impressive close of any team in Southern California, with a trio of runners making big moves over the final mile to key a fifth-place finish and a CIF State qualification.
“I have no words,” said Poly coach Gabrielle Bournes, whose team is making the Fresno trip as a group for the first time in almost a decade. “These girls are so young, they’ve always been very optimistic, and they’ve worked so hard to accomplish this today.”
Poly prides itself on training for hills, and that training showed off with the energy reserve they boasted on Saturday, jumping up 11 spots from the end of mile one to the finish (no other team moved up more than six spots). Their team time was 1:37.08, an average finish of 19:26 over the three-mile course.
The leader as she’s been all year was freshman Avery Peck, who finished 13th overall with a time of 18:21, as the fastest freshman finisher in the Division 1 race. Peck was frustrated she didn’t run faster or place higher.
“I feel really good for my team, they were able to pick up my slack today,” she said. “I’m grateful they were able to do so and I’m hoping to redeem myself next week.”
Poly senior Camille Lindsay finished 32nd in 19:01, an impressive performance after missing much of the year due to injury. Lindsay had the same intense mindset as a freshman that Peck does, and she spent time after the race talking Peck through her frustration.
“She reminds me so much of my mindset as a freshman, and she’s just…I love her so much,” said Lindsay. “And I let her know that she did great and she’s a great team leader even if she didn’t perform as well as she would have liked to. She was still so fast. And this is the deepest division there is, she did great.”
Most of Lindsay’s time after the race was spent celebrating with the rest of the Poly team, as they accomplished their season-long goal of getting to State. Poly’s next finishers were Alexa Bryson (60th, 19:53), Evelyn Hernandez Lujan (63rd, 19:55), Brynn Jolly (64th, 19:56), Emily Chun (109th, 21:12), and Maile Quinn (112th, 21:40).
Bryson, Hernandez Lujan, and Jolly all moved up double-digit places over the course of the last mile, with Bryson the biggest mover of the day in the Division 1 race, going from 100th to 60th in the final two miles of the race.
“I knew the rest of the field was going to get out quick because it’s finals,” said Bryson. She, like Lindsay, was running Mt. SAC for the seventh and final time in her high school career. “I trusted that our team starts slow and that we’d finish strong. I feel great, like all our hard work in this last year paid off. We put in a lot of work building up that back pack with me, Brynn and Evelyn. It’s amazing we made it.”
Hernandez Lujan moved up eight spots over the last mile and Jolly moved up 12 over the last mile to help secure the state berth for Poly.
“Words cannot express what I’m feeling,” said Lindsay. “We made it.”