The Jackrabbits' main competition for the honor was Bakersfield of the CIF Central Section. The Drillers stated their case after the CIF state track meet by winning the boys team title. That also was the school's second CIF state team title of the school year, following a record-breaking performance at the state wrestling championships. In addition to those two sports, Bakersfield also had unbeaten section title-winning teams in football and girls soccer.
So how can Poly overcome all that, without being No. 1 in the state in any single sport? For starters, the Jackrabbits did have one team accomplishment that no other school in state history has been able to do and that's sweep all four boys and girls relay events at the state track meet. They also were arguably not only No. 1 in the state but No. 1 in the nation for having the best boys-girls track program and the best boys-girls combo in basketball.
The Jackrabbits had a better fall in their 2000-2001 campaign than they did for 2001-2002, but not by that much. The football team wound up No. 2 in the state and No. 4 in the nation after winning its fifth straight Southern Section Div. I title (one was a co-title). Its only loss was to No. 1 in the state and nation Concord De La Salle. The boys cross country team was No. 4 in the CIF Div. I state finals and was nationally-ranked. The girls volleyball team made it to the Southern Section finals in its division and was No. 13 in the state.
In the winter, the two Poly boys and girls basketball teams were far superior to the squads the school had for 2000-2001. Coach Ron Palmer's boys were 30-4, lost in a close game to eventual state champ Westchester of Los Angeles in the CIF Southern Region Div. I final and were No. 2 in the final state rankings. Coach Carl Buggs' girls were 33-2, losing only to national No. 1 Lynwood and national power Narbonne of Harbor City, and were No. 3 in the final state rankings.
The spring is usually the sole domain of coach Don Norford's boys and girls track teams, which this season were second in both state meets and came through in the relays. But this spring the Poly baseball team got into success mode, too, with a 22-6 record and an appearance in the Southern Section Div. I semis. The school's badminton team also made it to the section semis and the boys tennis team joined the girls tennis team from the fall as Moore League champions.
Another factor that went against Bakersfield is that there is some doubt that the Drillers should even be considered the top school for the year from the Central Section. Clovis West, after all, won 11 section titles compared to just four for the Drillers. In that matchup, we still favor Bakersfield with the two state titles. Clovis West also was not ranked in the top five of the state overall in any of its sports (at least in sports we do rankings for and those in which state championships are held), so it didn't have much of a case against Poly, which had six of its teams considered top five in the state overall, seven in the top 10 and eight in the top 15.
The current run of dominance at Poly under athletic director Joe Carlson could continue, too. Already, this fall's football team has had nine players offered Div. I college scholarships. The girls basketball team was young and the two boys and girls track teams had a lot of underclass talent as well.
OF THE YEAR
(All-time list; all selections by Cal-Hi Sports)
2001-02 -- Poly (Long Beach)
2000-01 -- Poly (Long Beach)
1999-00 -- De La Salle (Concord)
1998-99 -- Clovis West (Fresno)
1997-98 -- Santa Margarita (Rancho SM)
1996-97 -- Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
1995-96 -- De La Salle (Concord)
1994-95 -- Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
1993-94 -- Clovis West (Fresno)
1992-93 -- Esperanza (Anaheim)
1991-92 -- Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
1990-91 -- Poway
1989-90 -- Bakersfield
1988-89 -- Corona del Mar (Newport Beach)
1987-88 -- Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo)
1986-87 -- Mission Viejo
1985-86 -- Bellarmine (San Jose)
1984-85 -- Bellarmine (San Jose)
1983-84 -- Cordova (Rancho Cordova)
1982-83 -- St. Francis (Mountain View)
1981-82 -- Mission Viejo
1980-81 -- Poly (Long Beach)
1979-80 -- Berkeley
1978-79 -- Mt. Whitney (Visalia)
1977-78 -- Andrew Hill (San Jose)
1976-77 -- Pasadena
1975-76 -- San Fernando
1974-75 -- Clovis
1973-74 -- Kearny (San Diego)
1972-73 -- Monte Vista (Spring Valley)
1971-72 -- Ygnacio Valley (Concord)
1970-71 -- Lompoc
List continues back to 1890-91 in Cal-Hi Sports Record Book & Almanac.