The Long Beach Century Club hosted its 66th Annual Sports Night Banquet on Monday night at The Grand, recognizing top athletes from around the city as well as outstanding community members. The banquet also honored Co-Athletes of the Year along with three distinguished Hall of Fame inductees.
President Mike Fillipow kicked off the banquet by acknowledging the Juneteenth holiday, showing appreciation for “the diverse and far-reaching sports in this great city.” He especially noted the Century Club’s support and inclusivity of all athletes in Long Beach.
This year’s Athlete of the Year award was shared by two professional Long Beach athletes. One of the recipients was five-time NFL Pro Bowl offensive lineman, Joel Bitonio of the Cleveland Browns. He is now tied with Poly alum Jurrell Casey for most decorated NFL player to come out of Long Beach with those handful of Pro Bowl nods. Bitonio is a Wilson alum who sponsors all of The562’s Wilson coverage.
“Long Beach is truly a special place,” Bitonio said in his acceptance speech. “I’ve been all across the country and there’s no place like it. Being a part of this family will always have a special place in my heart.”
The other Athlete of the Year was New York Met, Jeff McNeil. McNeil appeared in the 2022 MLB All-Star game, winning the National League’s batting title with a .326 average. McNeil is the first Dirtbag alum to accomplish that feat.
McNeil was unable to attend the banquet as he was busy in Houston going 2-5 with an RBI, helping to beat the Astros, 11-1. McNeil’s agent accepted the award on his behalf, stating that McNeil and his wife are very proud Long Beach State Dirtbags.
This year’s Hall of Fame class was made up of legendary Millikan girls’ basketball coach Lorene Morgan, former Angels and Dirtbags pitcher Jered Weaver, and retiring CIF-SS Commissioner Rob Wigod.
Morgan has been coaching at Millikan for 33 years and just this past season, Morgan won her 600th career game. She is also behind the school’s only CIF-SS girls’ basketball title, which the Rams won in 2014.
Jered Weaver was unable to attend the banquet as he was coaching his son’s baseball team out in Riverside, but he sent in an acceptance video from the dugout.
“Long Beach has always been a cornerstone in where I am and who I have become,” Weaver said via video. Weaver was 37-9 as a Dirtbag and a three-time All-Star with the Angels, leading the MLB in strikeouts in 2010.
Rob Wigod is Long Beach through and through. Along with playing and coaching sports in the city, Wigod introduced a competitive equity playoff model which resulted in a golden era of championships for Long Beach schools.
“Long Beach is home. It’s all that I’m about. It’s all that’s made me get involved in everything,” Wigod said.
Shannon Fisher and Neil Nelson of Wilson Track were honored as Co-Coaches of the Year. This year’s honorees for High School Coach of the Year were shared by Stephen Barbee from Long Beach Poly football, and Chris Francis, who led Jordan boys’ basketball team to a CIF title this past season.
The Long Beach State Athletes of the Year were golfer Ian Gilligan and runner Ryley Fick. The LBCC Athletes of the Year were volleyball player Matthew Pennala and shot putter Casey Davis.
The Century Club also took time to award some of the community’s outstanding citizens. The562’s very own Mike Guardabascio was one of the recipients, receiving the Marie C. Gooch Past-Presidents Award. Other recipients include Rob Shock (Bob and Nell Kariger Award), The562’s founder Marilyn Bohl (Keith Cordes Award), Adrian Acevedo and Alia Marquez (Harold Hofman Memorial Scholarship Awards), Ed Hauck (Keith Hansen Memorial Award), Gabe Tyler (Philip Guardabascio Award), Ian Gilligan (Hank Hollingworth Award), Candace Canada and Thomas Richardson (Special Olympics Awards), and Don Rodriguez (Ernie G. Pollman Memorial Award).
High School Players of the Year were also recognized for each sport, and are listed below:
Girls’ Badminton: Maura Dark, Wilson
Bovs Badminton: Abhishek Jain, Wilson
Baseball: Lucas Scott, Poly
Girls’ Basketball: Cristina Jones, Lakewood
Boys’ Basketball: Frankie Chambers, Jordan
Co-Beach Volleyball: Chloe Pravedrikov & Kate Eckenrode, Wilson
Girls’ Cross Country: Avery Peck, Poly
Co-Boys’ Cross Country: Jason Parra, Millikan & Cameron Rhone, Poly
Football: Daylen Austin, Poly
Girls’ Golf: Alyson Sor, Wilson
Boys’ Golf: Ky Stopp, Wilson
Gymnastics: Francesca Acosta, Millikan
Girls’ Lacrosse: Eleni Voulgaris, Wilson
Boys’ Lacrosse: Nathan Donovan, Wilson
Co-Girls’ Soccer: Olivia Herrera, Wilson & Audrey Stewart, Millikan
Co-Boys’ Soccer: Isaac Machuca, Millikan & Amir Diaz Espinoza, Poly
Tri-Softball: Katie Knarr, Millikan & Laci Berecochea, Lakewood & Tiare Ho-Ching, Poly
Girls’ Swim/Dive: Samantha Hamilton, Wilson
Boys’ Swim/Dive: Colin Geer, Poly
Girls’ Tennis: Vanessa Holden, Wilson
Boys’ Tennis: Nolan Alvarez, Millikan
Girls’ Track & Field: Aujane Luckey, Wilson
Tri-Boys’ Track & Field: Jordan Washington, Jordan & Xai Ricks, Poly & Jason Parra, Millikan
Co-Girls’ Volleyball: Samarah DaCoud & Fatima Hall, Lakewood
Boys’ Volleyball: Braden Pool-Harris, Wilson
Girls’ Water Polo: Maya O’Dea
Boys’ Water Polo: Sean Tunnicliff
Girls’ Wrestling: Azthiri Guizar, Poly
Boys’ Wrestling: Gavin Laverde, Millikan
St. Anthony Girls’ Athlete of the Year: Ryann Bennett, Girls’ Basketball
St. Anthony Boys’ Athlete of the Year: Alexander Cobbs, Football & Track
Girls’ High School Athlete of the Year: Aujane Luckey, Wilson
Boys’ High School Athlete of the Year: Colin Geer, Poly
Last Man/Woman Standing Scholarship Recipient: Jordan Washington, Jordan