Screenshot 2024 05 26 At 12.44.24 Am
Long Beach Poly Track & Field

CIF State Track: Long Beach Poly Boys Win State Championship!

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

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

The Long Beach Poly boys’ track and field team had a night to remember in Clovis, as the Jackrabbits captured their first team state championship on the boys’ side since 2011. The championship was the Poly boys’ track program’s 11th-ever state title, and it’s the 26th total state championship for the Jackrabbits’ track program. It’s also the 38th CIF State championship across all sports at the school, most of any in California history.

The championship didn’t come the easy way–there were huge performances and big moments that led to a nail-biting win, with Poly needing a strong finish in the 4×400 to clinch the title. They finished third in the race, clinching a 33-28 point advantage over Clovis North.

“You know what, we just wanted to move in silence until we knew for sure,” said Poly coach Crystal Irving. “We’ve had so many ups and downs this year. But it’s special knowing how hard our boys have worked for this moment, and how they just supported each other. Especially to have a senior leader like Xai Ricks, coming out even though his season started off slower due to injuries. He came back and led this team and led the way.”

Monthly Subscribers to The562

By The562 Network Inc

Subscribe to the562 on GiveButter to make a recurring donation and keep Long Beach sports coverage free!

The emotional boost of the day for Poly was a state championship win in the 400 by the Georgia-bound senior Ricks. The runner-up in the 400 last year at the State Finals, Ricks has been perhaps the nation’s best 800 runner the last three years, but hasn’t run the event in the postseason in order to stay available for relays and other team point opportunities.

Having spent most of this year working back from a serious hamstring strain, Ricks hadn’t been himself. But his recovery from injury and training timeline interceded wonderfully on Saturday, as he ran a 46.79 to grab his first individual gold.

“It was a big goal coming into this year, that’s a huge achievement for me,” said Ricks. “I’m just glad I was able to leave Poly with a championship.”

Ricks said he hadn’t “felt like himself” in a race this year, but was thrilled to be able to push to the finish.

“I felt it going into the curve,” he said. “I saw the guy out in front and it wasn’t much movement up there. I was closing and I knew coming off the curb that I had him.”

He joins an illustrious group of 400 state champions at Poly that includes Bryshon Nellum and Shaq Howard.

The Jackrabbits boys’ title hopes got big boosts from a pair of freshman, as Ben Harris took fifth in the 100 in 10.56 and Julius Johnson took sixth in the 200 in 21.64. Johnson moved up two spots in the last 10 meters of the 200 and ended up taking sixth by a mere .008 seconds to grab an extra much-needed point for the Jackrabbits.

“They’re football players who came out and did an amazing job this year,” said Irving. “I’m realy excited about what they’re going to do in the future.”

The boys’ 4×100 was a thriller all the way, with four teams finishing under 41 seconds. The Jackrabbits ran an all-frosh soph quartet of Julius Johnson, Ben Harris, Jaylen McNeil, and Donte Wright. Wright surged from second place into the lead on the anchor leg, only to be overtaken in the last 10 meters by Pittsburg, which edged Poly by .03 seconds, 40.77 to 40.80. The race drew a large cheer from the late afternoon crowd.

On the girls’ side in the 4×100, Leila Holland, Jaylin Hunter, Aniyah Brooks and Brooklyn Lee overcame being interfered with on the first exchange to take second with a time of 45.78. Anise Becker took seventh in the 100 hurdles, and Mai Ricks threw a 41-3 to take seventh in the shot put, with Joy Anderson clearing 5-3 to take 11th in the high jump.

Poly’s 4×400 girls’ quartet of Leila Holland, Jaylin Hunter, Aliyah Stokes, and Nevaeh Lewis finished third but was DQed for stepping out of their lane.

Long Beach Poly

Girls’ 4×100, 2nd, 45.78 (Leila Holland, Jaylin Hunter, Aniyah Brooks, Brooklyn Lee)

Boys’ 4×100, 2nd, 40.80 (Julius Johnson, Ben Harris, Jaylen McNeil, Donte Wright)

Girls’ 100 Hurdles: Anise Becker, 7th, 14.34

Boys’ 400: Xai Ricks, 1st, 46.79

Boys’ 100: Ben Harris, 5th, 10.56

Boys’ 200: Julius Johnson, 6th, 21.64

Girls’ 4×400, DQ, (Leila Holland, Jaylin Hunter, Aliyah Stokes, Nevaeh Lewis)

Boys’ 4×400, 3rd, 3:18.88 (Darieon Shufford, Julius Johnson, Noah Smith, Xai Ricks) 

Girls’ Shot Put: Mai Ricks, 7th, 41-3

Girls’ High Jump: Joy Anderson, 11th, 5-03

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.