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Cabrillo Cross Country Jordan Lakewood Long Beach Poly Millikan St. Anthony Wilson

Long Beach Boys’ Cross Country Preview

This week, all of The562’s coverage is sponsored by Long Beach Gives. Visit LongBeachGives.org to find your cause and support local nonprofits! Donations will be accepted through Sept. 21.

The562’s cross country and track & field coverage is sponsored by an anonymous donation, in appreciation of Coach Ron Allice.

For 16 years running, the Moore League boys’ cross country title has gone to the Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits. But after a number of graduations off last year’s roster, plus the steady development of their rivals over at Millikan, the 2023 season could bring a changing of the guard.

Based on CIF-SS rankings via PrepCalTrack.com, the Millikan Rams are the Moore League favorites this season, led by three-time Moore League individual champion Jason Parra.

The Rams are currently ranked No. 6 in Division 1, and expectations are high for a program that has a stronger supporting cast around Parra this year. But before the Rams can worry about their standing in CIF, the first goal on the checklist is surpassing Poly for a Moore League title, which would be their first since 1992.

“Our goal has been the same since I started coaching the boys five years ago, and that’s to win Moore League,” said Millikan head coach Pedro Ramirez. “We haven’t done it yet, but we’re hoping this year is the year. And then beyond that, we hope to make it to the state meet and the ultimate goal is to place and come back with a trophy.”

Parra leads the lineup with experience, having already competed at the CIF State meet twice as an individual, but hopes to bring some teammates along with him this fall. As a junior, he finished sixth in the Division 1 race and is the fastest returner from that group, running a 15:13.7. Ramirez said that Parra is focused on having a great senior season and should be at his best for the Rams.

“There’s been absolutely no let up with him. He always wants to do more, ever since he was a freshman,” said Ramirez of Parra. “He’s as hungry as I’ve ever seen him. He wants to win a state title in cross country and track; he’s got two sports to try to do it in, and he’s hungry for one, that’s kind of what’s driving him.”

After Parra, junior Jack Brown is the next fastest returner from last year’s league finals, where he placed 5th for the Rams. Sophomore Aiden Ransom returns after making solid contributions on varsity last season, and fellow 10th grader Bryce Cobabe should be among Millikan’s top runners. 

Juniors Eric Plascencia and Max Ramirez also project to be among the scorers for Millikan this season, with a battle for the final lineup spots. Seniors Emmett Wechsler and Joaquin Ocampo along with a few others will compete for a spot in the rotation as the Rams have more depth in the ranks this year.

Long Beach Poly will look to hold off the Rams with a new head coach and a mostly new lineup in 2023. Jackrabbit alum Eric Riehl took over the head job after serving five years as an assistant coach, meaning the program shouldn’t skip a beat as far as culture and training routines.

Riehl has been connected to the program for the past 15 years, and doesn’t ever recall the Jackrabbits needing to replace six of their top seven finishers from one season to the next. But that’s the challenge that awaits him and his team as they essentially start fresh.

“It’s no secret that we graduated a lot of guys last year, and we’ve got some reloading and rebuilding to do,” Riehl admitted. “But we’ve got a really good group who have been working hard all summer. It’s a combination of sophomores, juniors, and seniors, all who have been making improvements. And we’re still early, so it’s just a matter of seeing who steps up, who puts it all together once the season gets rolling.”

Sophomore Archie Byrom has been posting some solid times lately and seems to be leading the way for the young Jackrabbits. Classmate Noah Chun and junior Luke Deeble have also stepped up to be part of Poly’s top three during the offseason. Senior Matthew Long is the only returner with varsity experience, and Riehl said his leadership has been valuable in preparing the new wave of runners.

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Over at Wilson, head coach CJ Brewer has an experienced group with a chance to improve from previous seasons.

“We have the second best group of returners in the league, when comparing lifetime bests,” Brewer said of his team. “Their goal is to lean on that experience and finish higher in the league than they did last year. They’re aiming to defeat Poly for the first time since 2005, and in order to do that they all need to step up and achieve their best on the same day. The boys have put in the work this summer and that will make them confident when the gun goes off.”

Senior Kyle Holland projects to be a top finisher for the Bruins in his third year on varsity. He’s focused on running this year after previously splitting time with the swim program, and Brewer has seen a jump in his ability on the course. 

Junior Cash Obando is another returning All-League runner for the Bruins, and senior Anthony Ruiz brings two years of varsity experience to the lineup. Sophomores Diego Sahagun and Tommy Pincherli are also back after impactful freshman seasons on varsity.

There’s a solid junior core at Lakewood, led by top returner Gabriel Rojas, who just missed out on an All-League spot as a sophomore last season. He’ll be joined by classmates Mikkelson Reyes, who has already dropped more than 2 minutes off his times from last year, along with Julian Miranda, Jacob Eam and Edan Cangro as varsity returners in the Lancer lineup. Plus, senior Jamari Gibson has shown great potential going into the season.

Jordan has been on quite an upswing for its track & field program, and head coach Sharaud Moore has an improving group of distance runners with senior J'Moises Vazquez leading the way, along with improved sophomore Ryann Rivera. Sophomore Erick Fuentes, junior William Valdez, and sophomore Isaiah Williams should also be among the top finishers for J-Town.

Outside of the Moore League, St. Anthony has a deeper and more prepared squad in year two under head coach Alejandro Salinas. A regular off-season training program that started back in December has helped the Saints make strides towards a potential Santa Fe League title and CIF appearance.

Seniors Quinn Donoghue and Elias Castillo, juniors Corey Medina and Tyler Lopez, and Sophomore Gian Legaspi project as the top runners for St. Anthony this season, with another handful of runners competing for spots in the lineup.

The cross country season will kick into full gear on Tuesday, September 26 when the first Moore League cluster meet will be held at El Dorado Park.

Long Beach Girls’ Cross Country Preview
Tyler Hendrickson
Tyler Hendrickson was born and raised in Long Beach, and started covering sports in his hometown in 2010. After five years as a sportswriter, Tyler joined the athletic department at Long Beach State University in 2015. He spent more than four years in the athletic communications department, working primarily with the Dirtbags baseball program. Tyler also co-authored of The History of Long Beach Poly: Scholars & Champions.