The crown jewel of Long Beach State track and field is near as olympic athletes, world championship performers and top collegiate talent will gather at the Jack Rose Track to compete in the 25th annual Beach Invitational held Friday and Saturday.
“Truly this meet is the gem of what we represent,” head coach Andy Sythe said, “and what we represent is quality in both management and operations and being set up to allow for quality performances.”
Leading up the Beach Invitational will be the fourth annual Pacific Coast Intercollegiate event Thursday which will segway into the Beach Invitational.
The 49ers will be competing throughout all three days, with over 3,200 total athletes from 230 different programs, ranging from community colleges to foreign clubs.
“Almost every event in the sprints, jumps and throws will have world class athletes competing,” Sythe said.
Olympian Ryan Crousar, who took the gold medal in the shot put at the 2016 summer olympics and olympian Jeff Henderson, also a gold medalist in 2016 in the long jump, will be competing in the 200m dash.
With the level of competition, Sythe said that it will elevate the level of energy of his team and push them to better marks. Because of the high caliber of athletes, placement won’t be as important as each individual pushing to record their best distance, time or height.
“We’re looking for marks,” Sythe said. “We’re trying to get NCAA regional qualifying marks to advance ourselves to the postseason, and these should be the conditions and the facility to do it on, as well as the competition level to push us.”
The coaching staff hopes to prepare their athletes to self-motivate themselves and make good decisions and adjustments.
“Coaching isn’t a luxury any of us have,” Sythe said. “The Beach Invitational was born as the Long Beach State Grand Prix 25 years ago and was created by Sythe and the program due to frustrations not being able to get into the Mt. Sac Relays, which are held the same weekend.
“[The Mt. Sac Relays] really seemed to cater to back east schools coming to visit,” Sythe said. “You would have athletes that had faster times but they would make commitments to teams traveling in, and our kids would get left out.
The first Long Beach State Grand Prix had around 250-300 participants. A few years later, the name was changed to the Long Beach Invitational and continued to grow slowly but surely.
In 2005, the facilities at LBSU were no longer feasible to hold events as the field conditions weren’t up to par. The decision was made to move the meet to Cerritos College, who has one of the most well-known fields.
“We knew we needed to be able to do that to be able to sustain our competition or we may have seen our meet digress,” Sythe said. “We met and exceeded our expectations of what we had at Cerritos, and as a result, the meet has continued to grow every year.”
The Beach Invitational returned to Long Beach in 2016 after the completion of the Jack Rose Field.
The competition level continues to be one of the major meets of the year as the event has produced NCAA leading marks.
While the event is important to the 49ers, the purpose of the event is to prepare and qualify for the conference and NCAA meets.
“Granted it’s an important meet and it’s a special meet, it’s just a meet to get us better,” Sythe said. “It’s not the meet we’re driving for at the end of the year like an NCAA meet would be, but this could be the meet that gets us there.”