By Rod Kausen – This could be the year for the Fortuna boys cross country team to challenge the dominance of Arcata and McKinleyville in the Humboldt-Del Norte League, which gets under way this week.
After finishing a distant second to McKinleyville last season at the league championship meet, Fortuna coaches Josh Quintal and Jen Hayes return senior Augustin Garcinuno, who placed third at the meet, as well as two top-10 finishers in sophomore Bo Cox and junior Andrew Hanson.
Fortuna adds sophomore Collin Stockwell, who participated only in track in his first year at the school but turned heads setting freshman school records in the 1,600 and 800 meters.
McKinleyville also returns a very deep team, including defending league champion Adam Vera and a pair of top-10 finishers, sophomores West Wood and Max Combs.
The Panthers should have plenty of depth as they have for the past few years, and will be hoping to continue recent their dominance in the H-DNL.
Coach Amber Coley says Vera looks “very good right now”.
Arcata, coached by the legendary James Washington, will be led by last season’s league runner-up, Miska Evans.
Eureka coach Matt Messner returns last year’s 11th-place league finisher Jaeden Thayer, and there will be a smattering of competition from Hoopa, North Coast Prep, Del Norte, Southern Trinity, Castle Rock and Mattole Triple Junction in the boys’ and girls’ competition.
Washington will put his main hopes in the Arcata girl’s squad, led by the defending league champion Riley Martel-Phillips and returning all seven members of the league championship team.
After a dominating team title at a recent event in Brookings without the services of Martel-Phillips, the Arcata girls look to be the overwhelming league favorites.
Reportedly Arcata also has an outstanding exchange student who has not yet cleared eligibility.
Julia De Solino of Del Norte also returns this year after finishing a strong second in the league meet last year, and hopes to have enough teammates this season to field a scoring team.
McKinleyville will counter with Tamia Crackle and Cecilia Ferreira, but the Panthers’ squad is low in numbers.
Fortuna’s top returner is Maggie Stacy, and the Huskies also have sprinter Camrin Dolcini participating this year.
Eureka, meanwhile, has Kylee Anna Zink Clinton back, and North Coast Prep returns two good young runners in Amaya Bechler and Bella Ely.
McKinleyville and Fortuna both competed recently in Santa Rosa in a two-mile invitational, a mile short of the standard distance of 5K/3miles.
Although there were a variety of divisions, Garcinuno finished 13th and Vera 14th in the varsity race, while Stockwell was fifth in the junior varsity division. Stockwell’s overall time was faster than Vera and Garcinuno.
The first league meet is scheduled for this Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the Arcata Community Center.
The HDN Championships are scheduled for Nov. 3 at the Arcata Marsh.
The North Coast Sections Meet of Champions follows two weeks later in Hayward and the State Championships will be held as usual on Thanksgiving weekend at Woodward Park in Fresno.