By Ray Hamill — The Humboldt-Del Norte League Track and Field Championships will take place this Saturday at Del Norte High School, with plenty on the line, both individually and team wise.
In fact, there has been little to separate the top teams in both the girls and boys competition this spring, and this weekend could come down to the narrowest of margins and an extra point here or there.
On the boys side, the McKinleyville Panthers are the reigning champions and will be tough to stop with a nice balance of top competitors in sprints, distance and field events.
Likewise with Del Norte, while Eureka has a lot of depth and has been surprisingly competitive through the regular season under new head coach Scott Pesch and his team of assistants.
At stake is more than just a team title, with the top finishers in each event moving on to one of the two Redwood Empire section meets next weekend.
“I think our boys are looking strong,” McKinleyville head coach Rudy Garcia said. “They know what’s at stake.”
On the girls side, Arcata and Fortuna are the two frontrunners, with each of them winning two of the four regular season meets this spring.
The Tigers will rely heavily on their dominating distance runners, while the Huskies’ strength will be the field events.
And once again, a deep Eureka team is likely have a say in the outcome.
“Arcata and Eureka are both good,” Fortuna co-head coach Josh Quintal said. “Arcata really I think is the team to beat with all the points they get in the distance events.”
Leading the way for the Huskies is the talented senior duo of Camrin Dolcini and Katie Hurst.
Dolcini, who will join the Chico State team next season, will compete in both hurdle events, as well as the pole vault.
She will also anchor a 4×100 relay team that has the fastest time in the H-DNL this spring, and one that could be a difference maker on Saturday.
Hurst has been a state contender in the high jump since her freshman year, but is enjoying a very productive season in the triple jump.
“She’s still doing very well in the high jump, but she’s finding a lot more success in the triple jump and really taking to the event,” Quintal said.
Among the most anticipated events on Saturday will be the showdown between Eureka’s Tiana Rodgers and Fortuna’s Kalia Yang in both the 100 and 200 meters.
Rodgers, a senior, will be looking to close out strong, but she’ll have her hands full against the sensational freshman, who has the fastest time this spring among any of the qualifiers in both events.
Fortuna’s Lexy Roberts is also expected to have a big showing on Saturday and has the fastest league time in the 400m this spring, but will be challenged by Eureka’s Olivia Stone, while Dolcini and Del Norte’s Katherine Martinez are the frontrunners in the pole vault.
Senior Riley Martel-Phillips leads the deep, deep group of Arcata distance runners, who remarkably have the top five times this season in each of the 800m, 1600m and the 3200m.
Dolcini and Martinez are also expected to battle it out in both hurdle events, along with McKinleyville’s Hadlie Ward.
In the boys competition, the seniors have dominated the sprints all spring, with McKinleyville’s Ryan Dolan and Owen Lien, Eureka’s Conor Barres and Hoopa’s William Reynolds all expected to contend for the 100m, 200m, and 400m.
The distance events have had more of a sophomore flavor this spring, with Fortuna’s Collin Stockwell, Eureka’s Ian Bennett and McKinleyville’s West Wood all expected to do well on Saturday, along with Mack senior Adam Vera.
The hurdle events will feature a battle of the Nates, with McKinleyville’s Nathan Witte and Eureka’s Nathaniel Spears expected to lead the field in each event, along with Arcata junior Aiden Hasselquist.
The Mack boys will also be tough to stop in both relay events as will Del Norte’s Luke King in the shot put, an event he has dominated this season.
Likewise with McKinleyville’s Sage Watrous De Salinas in the discus and Del Norte’s Ethan Price in the high jump.
All of them will go into Saturday as heavy favorites in their respective events.
Arcata’s Jasen McGoldrick should be in the mix in both the triple jump, where he has the top league mark of the spring, as well as the high jump.
Spears should also be in the mix in the long jump, where he has the top league mark this year, as does Del Norte’s Bryce Howard in the pole vault.