Arguably the two biggest sports stories in Long Beach in 2019 were the city’s flirtation with the Anaheim Angels and Long Beach State’s bungling of its mascot situation. There were also sports stories that actually involved sports and not just leveraged negotiations and comm department screw-ups.
In the name of having a holly, jolly holiday we chose to focus on sports with our completely subjective, please-don’t-yell-at-us, Best Sports Stories of 2019 list.
10. Long Beach Athletes in the Pros
This is the year we got a glimpse of the bright future for some Long Beach pro stars. As the old guard like DeSean Jackson and Troy Tulowitzki have begun to wane, Long Beach Poly’s Jayon Brown posted 100 tackles for the Titans, the first time a local athlete has done that in the NFL since Mark Carrier in 1990. JP Crawford (Lakewood High) was a rising star for the Mariners and Long Beach State product Jeff McNeil was an All-Star for the Mets.
9. Dirtbags Change Coaches
The Dirtbags are the closest thing Long Beach has to a city-wide team, and there was a big shakeup this year. Coach Troy Buckley was fired midseason after a locker room altercation with a fellow university employee. The school hired Eric Valenzuela to run one of the city’s most prestigious programs. Valenzuela, who previously coached at St. Mary’s, is short on local ties but big on the “Dirtbags” grind and grit mentality.
8. Rams Soccer Wins League Title
It was a magical 2019 for the Millikan girls’ soccer team which won its first Moore League championship since 1991 and then won a Division 1 playoff game against La Mirada and former coach Dave Christensen. The Rams are led by Tino Nunez, an All-CIF boys’ soccer player at Millikan who led the team to the 2001 CIF title. Fittingly for the Rams, they finished 2019 where they finished last season: first place in the Moore League.
7. LBCC Back On Top
The LBCC football team was the story of the campus. After a losing season in 2018, head coach Brett Peabody said his team had character issues, work ethic issues and likability issues. Peabody, who isn’t known as a man to minces words, said that he loved his 2019 team from the first practice of the Spring—and they loved him too. The Vikings went 7-3 this year and won a conference championship, their fifth in six years.
6. Long Beach Dives For Gold
Millikan junior Jenna Sonnenberg won her second consecutive CIF-SS diving championship, setting a scoring record in the process. Over her 11 dives, she put up a combined score of 596.70. We don’t know very much about diving or its scoring system, but when someone sets a record, you know they’re a boss. Bosses get a top 10 spot.
5. The Big Game Goes Big
Long Beach Poly and Wilson have the oldest rivalry in the city, a football grudge series that dates back to the early 1900s. But, frankly, the Jackrabbits have had the better of that rivalry for most of the last century, having not lost on the field to the Bruins since 1991. This year’s game was more of the same, with Poly winning 42-24, but the hype and excitement around the game, thanks to Wilson’s undefeated start, brought new life to the old rivalry. The game was sold out days beforehand and the atmosphere at Wilson was electric, with the Bruins ranked No. 1 in Division 7. Here’s hoping we can have another Big Game in the city next year.
4. Poly Track Strikes Gold
No other program in the city has won as many championships as the Long Beach Poly track and field team, with the boys’ and girls’ teams combining for 36 CIF-SS championships and 25 state titles. For scale, no other high school in California has won that many state titles across all its teams.
This year added another plaque to the pile for the Trackrabbits, as the boys’ team won the CIF-SS Division 1 title for the first time since 2007. The Poly girls’ 4×400 closed out the state meet with a gold medal as well.
3. Wilson’s Rachel “Golden” Glenn
Wilson star Rachel Glenn was one of the state’s top track and field juniors last year and ended the year as California’s 300 hurdles state champion, and runner-up in the high jump, an event she won in 2018 as a sophomore. Glenn has a good chance to put her name in the record book this year: if she wins two state titles as a senior she’d be the first Bruin to win four individual championships. Glenn will enter her senior season this year as perhaps California’s greatest star on the women’s side, and with a full scholarship to South Carolina in hand.
2. Cabrillo Brings Title To The Westside
One of the feel-good stories of the year was the Cabrillo boys’ soccer team winning the CIF State Division 2 regional championship, bringing the first-ever postseason championship to the Westside. The Jaguars not only won the first CIF title in school history, they did it in dominant fashion, beating San Diego Westview 6-2 in the title and outscoring opponents 17-2 in the state tournament. Sophomore Arnold Giron had a hat trick in the championship and was good enough to earn a developmental contract from the Los Angeles Galaxy in the offseason.
1. Beach Goes Back-To-Back
Come on, you knew this was going to be No. 1. It took us about two seconds to agree on this as the top sports moment of the year, as the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team won the first back-to-back NCAA title in city history this year. Even better? They did it in the Pyramid, as they hosted the Final Four. Mike literally got to ride his bike to cover a national championship; pretty rad.
Even radder was this year’s Beach team, which was named “Team of the Decade” by Off The Block last week. Featuring three future Olympians and two National Players of the Year in TJ DeFalco, Josh Tuaniga and Kyle Ensing, it was one of the best teams in NCAA history, and our easy choice for No. 1.
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