Long Beach Poly's Boys, Wilson's Girls Earn CIF Team Titles

* The Long Beach Poly boys won a CIF State Outdoor Championship on Saturday

Photo Credit: Raymond Tran/MileSplit

by Ryan Blystone - MileSplit California

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CLOVIS --  Track and field team titles often come down to seconds. 

The programs who are able to withstand that pressure are most often the ones on the podium with a trophy in hand.

That fact wasn't lost on teams on Saturday on the final day of the CIF State Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Veteran's Memorial Stadium on the campus of Buchanan High School. 

By night's end, there was a sweep of the state team championships by two strong representatives in the city of Long Beach: The Poly boys, who won for the first time since 2011; and the Wilson girls, who secured their team title for the second straight season.

In true team fashion, they were achieved with multiple contributors.

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Poly's boys picked up wins in the 400m from senior Xai Ricks; runner-up finishes by both the 4x100 and 4x400 relays; a fourth-place finish in the 100m by freshman Benjamin Harris; and a sixth-place showing in the 200m from Julius Johnson, with the Jackrabbits coming to a close with 33 points.

The Long Beach Poly boys surpassed Clovis North (28 points) for its 11th state championship.

Long Beach Wilson's boys were next with 27 points, followed by Fresno's Central with 22.5 and Mount Miguel of San Diego with 20 to round out the top five team scores.

Contributing 18 of Poly's point total, Ricks certainly did his part in what was a memorable way for one of the senior standout to finish his high school career.

"It means a lot, especially this season," the Georgia signee said. "We had a lot of injuries at the beginning of the season, a lot of guys going down, and with our chemistry, we were feeling down and out. But I'm always proud of our brotherhood. We stayed together and lifted each other up. I'm glad we were able to get it together, come out here and win a state championship. We hadn't done it in awhile, so it's a lot to be able to bring one back home."

Photo Credit: Raymond Tran/MileSplit

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Long Beach Wilson's girls, now winners of five state team championships and its first-ever back-to-back titles, utilized victories in the long jump by Loren Webster; a win in the final event of the night, which was the 4x400 relay; a runner-up finish in the 300mH by Saniah Varnado; a fifth-place effort by Brooke Blue in the 400m; a sixth-place finish in the 4x100 relay; and an eighth-place showing in the 100mH by Kaylin Edwards.

Wilson had 36 points and needed the 4x400 relay victory to surpass team runner-up Ventura, who scored 30 points, largely behind its win in the 1,600m and 4x800.

Vista Murrieta was third with 23, followed by Santiago Corona with 22 and La Jolla at 21.

The Bruins' state title win was equally important.

"Back-to-back state titles was our goal coming into the season," Wilson Coach Neil Nelson said. "We knew it was going to be hard but we set it because we had a young team last year and we still have a young team that'll be coming back next year. We had some adversity early on, but the kids really came together."

Outside of Long Beach, another city to celebrate in the wake of this weekend's events was Sand Diego. Despite not winning a state team championship, boys athletes from the city won four individual state titles and girls from the city won six.

Mount Miguel sophomore Brandon Arrington's star shined brightest as he won both the 100m and 200m races in scintillating fashion. His times Saturday, both of which that were wind-legal, were 10.33 seconds in the 100m and 20.55 in the 200m.

His Friday times of 10.27 and 20.55 were both wind-aided.

"It feels great," Arrington said. "A lot of greats did it, Rodrick Pleasant and Michael Norman, these guys have done it, they've won two races at state and you know I'm one of the greatest, too, now in California in the record books so that's a big accomplishment."

Other San Diego boys winners were Carlsbad's Cain Evans in the 800m in a time of 1:50.21, and University City pole vaulter Kai Anderson, who cleared 16-8 on his second attempt to win.

At one stretch of the track events, San Diego runners swept four straight races and six of seven, including Arrington's double and Evans' 800m triumph.

San Diego's girls winners were San Diego High's Anisa Bowen-Fontenot in the 100mH (13.59), La Jolla's Payton Smith at 53.39 in the 400, Poway 800 runner Tessa Buswell (2:06.51), Carlsbad's Morgan Herbst in the 300mH (41.26) and Jaelyn Williams of East Lake triumphing in the 3,200m in 9:57.11.

"It means the world, it means everything to me," Buswell said. "Being a senior and my last win comes at state it's great. It really validates all of the hard work."

Herbst credited a successful mental approach and hard work that enabled her to triumphantly return to the state meet. She finished 10th in the 2023 state prelims in the 300mH race, but this year she leaves with a first-place medal around her neck.

"I'm really proud that my hard work and resilience has paid off," Herbst said.

1Morgan Herbst11Carlsbad (SD)41.931
2Deauna Louis11Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA) (LA)42.902
4Soleil Warner10Bay School of San Francisco (NC)42.901
3Saniah VarnadoWilson - Long Beach (SS)43.033
5Olivia Griffin11Da Vinci Charter Schools (SS)43.031
6Mia Holden12South Pasadena (SS)43.382
7Natalie McCarty10Newport Harbor (SS)43.441
8Bella Turner12Liberty - Bakersfield (CS)43.453

A few double state champions on Saturday know plenty about putting in the time -- physically, mentally and emotionally -- and to see a dream come to life is quite satisfying.

Ventura distance runner Sadie Engelhardt and Clovis North discus and shotputter McKay Madsen, both juniors, experienced new feelings based on winning again for one and, for another, having a breakthrough that netted them twice the rewards.

Engelhardt repeated as the state's 1,600m champion, setting a state meet record time of 4:32.06 that actually lowered her previous best state meet time of 4:33.45. Later, she anchored Ventura's 4x800 relay team to victory in 8:57.21, the only team to finish sub-9 minutes.

It's Engelhardt's first state title in a relay. Joined by Aelo Curtis, Tiffany Sax and Melanie True, Engelhardt understands the joy of not only winning individually, but as a team.

"It's definitely a long process to get here so when I'm here, I just enjoy it and take in the moment," Engelhardt said.

Madsen, meanwhile, won the discus and shot put while being the lone Clovis-area athlete to win state titles Saturday at Buchanan Clovis High's Veterans Memorial Stadium, a place he knows very well.

"These guys have done it, they've won two races at state and you know I'm one of the greatest, too, now in California in the record books so that's a big accomplishment."

His state title-winning discus throw of 206-8, on his third attempt, is a personal best and it came after a 204-8 on his previous throw. Those 200-plus throws in the final joined a 201-10 he had in the state prelims Friday and a 204-2 in the May 18 Central Section Masters Meet.

"It's just the fruits of the labor," Madsen said of winning the state while also reaching new heights and doing it consistently.

It's not just in the discus, either. Madsen won the shot put title in 62-9.50, which marked the ninth time this season Madsen has finished a meet with at least one throw of 60 or more. His PR is a 63-6 in a runner-up finish at the Arcadia Invitational.

Between the resilience that the Poly boys and Wilson girls won their state titles and how all state champions gained a visible reward for commitment to their craft, many expressed appreciation for what it brought out of them.

"There's no better feeling," Ricks said. " I wanted to come here, run my last open race as a senior, and I just wanted to finish the best that I could. I had a great mindset coming in, just wanted to stay relaxed, finish strong and I was able to do that."

Vista Murrieta senior Alyssa Alumbres took charge in winning the triple jump in this, her third appearance at the state meet and had finished no higher than fifth before now. She scored a 40-11 on her second attempt on Saturday. Not only did it improve on her already state-leading 40-4 at the May 18 Southern Section Masters Meet, but she broke her school's record of 40-6 set by Michelle Norman in 2014.

Alumbres, who earlier on Saturday finished second in the long jump with a 19-5.5 behind Wilson's Webster (20-5.25), said winning a triple jump state title wasn't on her radar until this season.

"If you had asked me last year if I was going to win triple jump at state this year I would have probably not believed you," she said. "I always favored long jump over triple, but this year I've grown really fond of it and it feels great to have excelled in an event I've put a lot of time into."

That's often what it takes to be the best in the state.