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Long Beach Poly

Long Beach Poly Celebrates Early Signees, Xai Ricks Chooses Georgia

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly is sponsored by Bryson Financial.

Long Beach Poly recognized six early NCAA scholarship signees at the first of three signing day ceremonies the school will host this year. As part of the festivities in the packed Andrew Osman Auditorium, Poly senior track and field star Xai Ricks announced his college choice, as he’ll be continuing his running career at Georgia.

Ricks, one of the top 400 and 800 runners in the nation, is also one of the top high school athletes in any sport in Long Beach this year. He had offers from virtually every college in the nation and chose Georgia over USC and Mississippi State.

“I really liked the team and the coaches and their plan for me,” said Ricks, who is planning to run both events at the collegiate level. “The plan is for me to keep my base of speed and compete in the 400, and then add the 800.”

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Ricks projects as an elite athlete in both events and will be among the favorites to win whichever he and the Poly coaches choose for him to run in the postseason this year in high school.

Ricks walked out with three banners bearing the names of his finalists, then ultimately chose to sit in the Poly chair that had the red, white, and black balloons in Georgia’s colors. He gave a brief speech thanking his friends, family, and coaches before announcing his commitment to a loud cheer from the crowd.

He said it was fun getting to be part of such a big event—typically track athletes don’t get to announce commitments with the same fanfare as football or basketball players, but Poly athletic directors Rob Shock and Crystal Irving have made a tradition over the last few decades of putting together large signing day ceremonies to honor the scholarship athletes at the school.

“It means a lot to see everyone out here supporting, it feels great,” said Ricks.

Ricks wasn’t the only signee at the event, as the Jackrabbits also honored Tiare Ho-Ching (Arizona State, softball), Taylor Mercado (Georgetown, volleyball), Brooklyn Taylor (Cal State Bakersfield, basketball), Sydney Corder-Boyd (UC Merced, basketball), and Kate Montemayor (Cal State Bakersfield, golf). The other athletes had already announced and decided on their college commitments. 

That didn’t make it less special of a day, according to Mercado.

“I’ve literally only thought about this for the last two weeks,” she said. “It’s so much fun getting to celebrate with the entire school and our whole teams.”

Ho-Ching is one of the city’s top athletes in multiple sports, having just wrapped a league title in flag football and getting ready for the softball season. She said with her mom working in the morning when she signed and faxed in her actual Letter of Intent, the ceremony at Poly was the first time she’d gotten to celebrate with her whole family in person.

“We were on FaceTime this morning and this makes it all feel more ‘real,’ and just soaking it in,” she said. “It didn’t feel real when I committed but now that I’m signed it feels real. For sure. We’re making a big deal with our family today.”

Ho-Ching and Mercado echoed Ricks’ comments about feeling like their sports were appreciated because of the big production put on, with Shock announcing each of their names and photos going up on the big auditorium screen, as well as the chairs decorated with balloons and placards with their names on them.

“It’s just great to feel the love,” said Ho-Ching.

“I love that all my girls are out there, I could hear the whole team cheering and that’s a great moment,” said Mercado.

Poly will also honor its football signees (with commitments to Oregon, Arizona, Fresno State, Utah Tech and others) on football signing day as well as an end-of-year ceremony where the more than two dozen signees will be celebrated as a group.

VIDEO: Long Beach Poly Signing Day, Intern Highlight
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.