In the long tradition of honoring Long Beach’s great high school athletes, the Gazettes Newspapers are proud to revive a treasured local tradition. The All-City Awards, given annually by the Press-Telegram, were one of the most prestigious awards in the city—St. Anthony’s tribute to John Olszewski in their football record book proudly touts him as the school’s only All-City Football Player of the Year.
The tradition fell by the wayside as the Press-Telegram’s coverage map expanded and the All-City honors morphed into the current Dream Team format. But the Gazettes only covers the Long Beach high schools, and as such, we are reviving the All-City awards—the only athletes eligible will be athletes in the LBUSD high schools, as well as those competing at St. Anthony.
Each year at the beginning of summer, we will name a top athlete in each high school sport—those names are being unveiled today. It’s a great crop of first honorees—there are a trio headed to USC next year and a trio headed to UCLA, as well as athletes either committed or signed to Long Beach State, Nebraska, Tennessee, Baylor, Utah, Oregon, and BYU.
Tomorrow, we will unveil the first-ever Gazettes All-City Athletes of the Year—the best of the best, one boy and one girl chosen from the list below as the two best Long Beach athletes in 2013-2014. The next day, the end-of-year All-City series will conclude with awards including Best Coach, Best Game, and Best Comeback.
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY: Christian Vazquez, Poly
The Moore League champion won two of three league meets to help Poly go undefeated. In the league finals, Vazquez led a Poly sweep of the top seven places to help the Jackrabbits win a share of their 17th league title in 18 years.
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY: Melissa Tanaka, Poly
Jackrabbits freshman Melissa Tanaka kicked off what could be a very bright career in 2013 by setting new freshman Moore League records at El Dorado Park (18:01) and Heartwell Park (18:12). She also won the El Dorado meet and finished second at league finals, before going on to run 18:18 at CIF Prelims, as Long Beach’s fastest finisher at Mt. SAC.
FOOTBALL: John “JuJu” Smith, Poly
The highest-recruited football player out of Long Beach since DeSean Jackson a decade ago, “JuJu” was a transcendent athlete for the Jackrabbits, leading them to a CIF title in 2012 and a dominant run in the Moore League in 2013. He had 9 TDs despite sitting for the second half of every Moore League game, and 71 tackles for the Jackrabbits’ CIF semifinal squad.
GIRLS GOLF: Ali Morallos, Wilson
Morallos was eligible to win all of the 2013 individual awards and did not disappoint in her first year as a high school student. She won the Chappy Wheeler Invitational in September and was runner-up at the CIF-SS Southern Team Division Individual. Morallos finished third at the CIF-SS Southern Individual Regional with an impressive 69.
GIRLS TENNIS: Olivia Mendoza, Wilson
Mendoza was not only the Moore League’s individual champion, but was also the doubles runner-up with partner Tiffany Sanchez. Ironically, it was Sanchez who Mendoza defeated in the individual final, scoring a 6-3, 6-1 triumph. Only a sophomore, Mendoza was praised by head coach Keri McBride for her mental toughness this season.
GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Megan Kruidhof, Lakewood
Kruidhof had a great junior season, as the Moore League’s leading offensive player. She earned Moore League Player of the Year and first-team All-CIF honors. Kruidhof hopes to lead the Lancers to a CIF title in the fall, and she’s committed to attend and play for Long Beach State after that.
BOYS WATER POLO: Murphy Slater, Wilson
Slater’s senior season was a tour de force, as the Bruin showed himself to be an offensive and defensive force in the water. Slater capped the year by signing a scholarship to play at USC next season.
BOYS BASKETBALL: Malik Marquetti, Millikan
A strong preseason put both Marquetti and his Millikan team on the map, and they never left. The explosive 6’6” wing dropped 22.8 points per contest, adding 11.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.4 steals and 2 blocks per game to lead the Rams to their best season in 25 years with a CIF semifinal appearance. He won Moore League Player of the Year, was All-CIF in Division 1AA, and he will continue his career at USC next season.
GIRLS BASKETBALL: Lajahna Drummer, Poly
Drummer was a McDonald’s All-American last year, a final honor after a terrific senior season. A transfer from St. Bernard, Drummer quickly left a mark, guiding Poly to an Open Division CIF State championship with stellar play on both ends of the floor. She has signed a scholarship to play for UCLA next season.
BOYS SOCCER: Evair Marin, Cabrillo
After two years of leading the Jaguars, Marin was rewarded with an All-CIF selection after scoring 19 goals and dishing out 15 assists as a senior. The diminutive forward hypnotized defenses with his deceptive skill and speed off the ball.
GIRLS SOCCER: Sami Reinhardt, Wilson
One of only two All-CIF Div. 2 selections from the Moore League, Reinhard continued to show her incredible versatility and high skill level. After exclusively playing midfield at the club level, Reinhard pushed forward for the Bruins and scored an incredible team-high 21 goals while adding 18 assists. She’ll continue her career at Nebraska this fall.
GIRLS WATER POLO: Alexis Angermund, Wilson
For the second straight year, Angermund won the Moore League’s scoring title (this year with 106 goals) and was rewarded with the league’s MVP honors. The senior led Wilson in nearly every statistical category, including goals, steals and earned exclusions. Angermund also won a gold medal with Team USA in the UANA Youth Pan American Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She will play for UCLA next season.
WRESTLING: Chris Messerschmitt, Millikan (40-10)
This senior captain had a special ending to his career, winning his first Moore League title then capturing his first CIF championship, a year removed from not even making it to the second day of Individuals. Of his team-best and league leading 40 wins, 20 came via pin.
GIRLS BADMINTON: Kristine Nguyen, Poly
The 2013 runner-up finished the job as a sophomore this past season, winning the girls individual title over teammate Amanda Phou. Nguyen had a fairly routine time with her fellow Jackrabbit, posting an 11-8, 11-3 victory to go undefeated in Moore League singles play this season while handing Phou her only loss. She also took third in mixed doubles with partner Karl Luciano.
BOYS BADMINTON: Matthew Yan, Wilson
Nobody had more success than Yan at this year’s league championships. The senior swept the championships in both boys singles and mixed doubles. He flipped the script to beat defending champion Vattanak Ry (11-5, 11-4) in the title match, then paired up with classmate Ripa Barua for an 11-2, 11-13, 11-6 victory over Millikan’s Isaac Lorico and Jennifer Nguyen for the mixed doubles crown just two days later.
BASEBALL: Chris Betts, Wilson
Not only did the junior catcher help guide the Bruin pitching staff to a 1.10 team ERA, he developed his arm strength and power stroke while slugging .510 with four home runs and a .940 OPS. Betts was named All-Moore League Co-Player of the Year and has been verbally committed to the University of Tennessee for a year. He had an eight-game hit streak in the heart of the Moore League season that started with a 6 for 13 stretch in wins over Millikan, Jordan and Trabuco Hills.
BOYS GOLF: Hunter Epson, Wilson
Joe Epson won the Moore League Individual Tournament three straight years while at Millikan High so his youngest son Hunter wanted to beat that record. The sophomore finished in second place last year but took the first step to tying the family/league record in May at Recreation Park Golf Course by winning his first league title with a final score of 2-under 286.
GYMNASTICS: Alejandra Alvarez, Wilson
The Bruins fell to Millikan in the Moore League finals, but Alvarez stole the show and took the All-Around title with a 37.6, just .3 clear of Ram leader Larissa Fielder. Alvarez beat Fielder with a 9.5 on the vault and a 9.5 on the uneven parallel bars.
SOFTBALL: Jessica Scroggins, Lakewood
An argument can be made that this speedy centerfield captain could be the Dream Team Player of the Year and if there was an award for a full body of work, Scroggins would be a runaway winner. She won a third straight Moore League Most Valuable Player award as a senior and set the table for another playoff run for the Lancers by hitting .495, driving in 29 runs, scoring 39 runs of her own with eight home runs and 28 stolen bases.
BOYS SWIMMING: Daniel McArthur, Lakewood
McArthur is just a junior, but is already an accomplished swimmer for the Lancers. A three-time CIF champion in 2014, McArthur will enter his senior season expected to challenge CIF records (he set a new one in the 100 backstroke this year). He will also begin his final high school campaign as the two-time defending Press-Telegram Dream Team Swimmer of the Year.
GIRLS SWIMMING: Maddie Meisel, Millikan
Meisel recovered from a freak knee injury to have a memorable senior season, dominating at the Moore League Finals while also breaking a decade-old record set by Olympian Jessica Hardy. By the end of the year she also owned seven school records. There were several suitors for her talents, and Meisel has selected Utah as her college of choice.
BOYS TENNIS: Danny Nguyen, Millikan
Continuing a strong line of tennis-paying Nguyens at Millikan, Danny was the Moore League singles champion this season as just a sophomore. Older sister Cindy Nguyen won back-to-back Moore League individual crowns for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, and now her younger brother has effectively picked up the reigns by winning the 2013-14 boys crown. He defeated Poly’s Alex Nagourney 6-1, 6-3 in the final.
BOYS TRACK & FIELD: Misana Viltz, Millikan
Misana Viltz was peerless in the 110 meter hurdles this season—literally. The Rams senior never once lost at that distance this year, winning a Moore League, CIF, and State title. At the State track meet he set a nation-leading mark of 13.42—he will take his talents to UCLA next season.
GIRLS TRACK & FIELD: Ariana Washington, Poly
Washington ended her senior year with all of her goals in hand—she defended her state titles in the 100 and 200 meter sprints, with nation-leading marks in both and a school record in the 100. Along with a 4x100 relay gold, that brings her to eight state titles in her career, a feat equaled in history only by Marion Jones and Allyson Felix.
BOYS VOLLEYBALL: Storm Faagata, Lakewood
Faagata didn’t end his senior season the way that he wanted to. He’d hoped for a Moore League title, but despite putting up eye-popping stats (41 kills vs Poly) Lakewood ended up in second. Faagata still earned co-Moore League Player of the Year honors as one of the city’s best volleyball players of the last decade. He will continue his career collegiately at BYU.