Another NCS shambles leaves runners high and dry


File photo – The Arcata girls never got the opportunity to compete for a place in the state championships.

By Ray Hamill — Poor planning by the North Coast Section has left many local cross country runners wondering what might have been, after a sudden end to their high school careers.

On Tuesday, the section was forced to cancel five of the 10 scheduled championship races at the last minute, due to poor air quality in Hayward, and instead used a three-person advancement committee to decide which runners move on to the state races on Saturday.

What a complete and utter shambles.

Just when we start thinking things can’t get any worse, they somehow do.

Once again, the NCS has no one to blame but its own decision makers, and once again this whole mess could and should have been avoided.


Over a week ago, with the poor air quality caused by the ongoing wildfires still lingering in the Bay Area, Fortuna cross country co-head coach Josh Quintal contacted the NCS about potentially moving the races to Humboldt County as a back-up plan.

He never heard back from them.

“We emailed them saying if we had enough notice, we could put something together up here,” said Quintal, who reached out on a couple of occasions. “And we didn’t get a reply.”

The end result was hundreds of runners never got the opportunity to race in what for many would have been the pinnacle of their careers, and for others the opportunity to move on to the state meet.

In some cases, they were literally left stranded at the starting line, including the Humboldt-Del Norte League contingent from Arcata, Eureka, Fortuna and Del Norte, who were lined up and ready to go when the decision came down.

The NCS had been monitoring the air quality in the area all morning, and as soon as it dipped below acceptable levels the races were immediately canceled.

“It was craziness,” Quintal said.

Viable options

And, just like we’ve seen with the football scheduling problems, it was largely down to poor planning and a lack of decisive action from the NCS, with everyone aware the quality of the air was unlikely to improve enough until the expected rainfall later this week.

There were some viable options available here on the North Coast, where the air quality remains well within the levels required, but the NCS appears to have again ignored those options.

“We were trying to scramble to put something together, and we never heard anything back,” Quintal said.

Cruel ending

For Fortuna senior Agustin Garcinuno and numerous other contenders within the five divisions who never got to race, it’s a cruel way to have your high school career ended for you.

Garcinuo was one of the top runners here on the North Coast and expected to be in contention for his first ever trip to the state race, but was overlooked by the advancement committee, and saw his opportunity slip away on somebody’s judgement, instead of on the field of competition.

Earlier this season, Quintal described Garcinuno as one of his team leaders, who had taken on himself the responsibility to organize off-season workouts for the Huskies.

All of that hard work won’t now pay off for him this year.

The Arcata girls too were expected to at least challenge for one of the team spots moving on to the state races, but were also overlooked by the committee, and never got the opportunity to compete for it.

Once again, it’s important to remember that this is not a matter of life and death, the way the wildfires have been, but again it should not be used as an excuse to hide behind when you take away something these young athletes have worked so long and so hard for.

Not when there were alternatives. Not when the NCS should have acted sooner to avoid this mess — again.

12 replies »

  1. Move the HDN out of the NCS to the Northern Section (Redding Area) so these kids can get there respective sports played without the NCS Commissioner Gil Lemmon and his staff screwing them from participating in the future.

    • Well maybe but then you’ve got 299 snow and ice to deal with which is much more dangerous than Highway 101…

    • Or create a new section called the northwest coast section…

      Because that’s exactly what it is now with all the teams that went to winter sports for soccer…

  2. It’s expensive and complicated for so many teams to travel from Bay Are up to Humboldt. Not surprised they did not consider it as a viable option. Hotel capacity, etc just doesn’t make it work. Humboldt State hosted national XC championships a few years back and the Hotel reservation part was a nightmare. Can you imagine 3 times as many HS teams, with only a week a to plan. No brainer IMO.

    • Okay and what about Humboldt teams and Del Norte teams that have to drive travel a lot more than the southern teams…

    • One week-to-week start of the regular season preseason these adults whether they’re coaches parents or North Coast section officials all knew they weren’t going to do what they were going to do for a season without money or traveling so that’s not a viable reason to excuse the poor conduct of NCS officials.

  3. North Coast sections is going to get sued for a title 9 violation…

    Picking winners and losers by a coin flip or by how much gate money the sport will receive for tickets…

    There shouldn’t be any football playoffs anymore if the cross country Runners don’t get to compete as well that’s what fairness and equality should be in sports is that every athlete of every sport gets to compete through their whole season and not have a bunch of adults mucking up the water…

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