The defending champions proved too difficult to de-throne at the Humboldt-Del Norte League Track and Field Championships on Saturday, as the McKinleyville boys and Fortuna girls cruised to comfortable team wins at Del Norte High.
Individually, the day was full of thrilling finishes and some fantastic competition, but the battle for the team titles were far less competitive than we might have expected.
The win for the Panthers capped a day for the ages for McKinleyville High sports, a day that saw the school win three league titles in one afternoon, along with the baseball and softball teams.
I’m not sure that’s ever happened before, or when it might happen again.
The Panthers finished with 155 points, well ahead of Eureka (108) and Fortuna (84).
“It was an exceptional showing by the boys,” McKinleyville head coach Rudy Garcia said. “We won by almost 50 points, which is huge. But even though the margin was big, there was a lot of a close battles.”
In the girls competition, meanwhile, seniors Katie Hurst and Camrin Dolcini each won all four events they competed in to help the Huskies defend the title they won for the first time ever a year ago.
The Huskies finished with 158 points, also well ahead of second-placed Arcata (132) and third-placed Del Norte (84).
“I can’t say enough about them, and it’s sad that it’s almost over with them for us,” Fortuna co-head coach Josh Quintal said of the dynamic senior duo. “Between them they scored almost 80 points. That’s a big chunk of our 158 points.”
Hurst and Dolcini, however, weren’t the only Fortuna stars on the day, with junior Lexy Roberts playing a pivotal role, winning the 400 meters as expected and crucially adding valuable team points in the 800m, an event the Arcata girls have dominated all spring.
“Lexy Roberts was really a factor,” Quintal said.
The girls 100 meters was one of the highlight races of the day, ending in a dead heat between Eureka senior Tiana Rodgers and Fortuna freshman Kalia Yang.
Yang also won the 200m and was a part of the winning Fortuna 4×100 relay team, which also included Dolcini, Hurst and Samantha Bennett.
Dolcini edged out Del Norte standout Katherine Martinez in both the 110m hurdles and the pole vault, winning the latter by six inches with a jump of 11-06.
The Fortuna senior also took top spot in the 300m hurdles, ahead of McKinleyville’s Hadlie Ward.
Arcata, as expected, did have plenty of success in the distance events, with Riley Martel-Phillips edging teammate Thea Norlund in an exciting 1600m, and Norlund returning the favor in the 800m.
Freshman Anneli Macdonald, one of three standout sisters on the Arcata team, continued her brilliant debut season with a win in the 3200m, as the Tigers took the top three spots in each of the three distance races, including the top six in the 1600m
Fastest athlete on the North Coast
On the boys side, Eureka Conor Barres left no doubt as to who is the fastest athlete on the North Coast this spring with victories in both the 100m and 200m, while Owen Lien, as expected, won the 400m, an event he has dominated all season.
“That Conor Barres kid, he showed up,” Garcia said of the Loggers senior, who had PRs in both events. “Which is good. It’s good to have competition in our league.”
It was no surprise to see Eureka’s Ian Bennett take first in the 800m, but the sensational sophomore capped a big day with a surprise win over Fortuna’s Collin Stockwell in the 1600m as well.
“Ian played it masterfully,” Quintal said. “He’s got an amazing kick, and he just hung with Collin for three laps, maybe two and a half, and then he took the lead.”
It’s a sophomore rivalry the H-DNL will be enjoying for the next two years.
Adam Vera, who placed in three events, and West Wood gave the Mack boys the top two spots in the 3200m, respectively, capping a strong day for several Mack distance runners, which played a big part in the outcome.
McKinleyville had four runners in the top seven in each of the 800m, 1600m and 3200m.
The Panthers also took first in both relay events, with the quartet of Stephen Watrous, Lien, Isaac Ward and Ryan Dolan winning the 4×100 and Nathan Witte, Sebastian Reyes, Lien and Dolan winning the 4×400.
“It was a real team win,” Garcia said.
Witte was also a factor in both hurdle events, placing first in the 300m event ahead of Arcata’s Aidan Hasselquist and Eureka’s Nathaniel Spears, with Spears winning the 110m hurdles ahead of Witte and Hasselquist.
As expected, Del Norte’s Luke King was first in the shot put, while teammate Ethan Price took top spot in the high jump.
Arcata’s Nathan Arrasmith pushed Price all the way, matching the Del Norte star with a mark of 6-0, but losing out on number of attempts.
Price also placed second to Arcata’s Jasen McGoldrick in the triple jump, while Spears took first in the long jump and Del Norte’s Bryce Howard first in the pole vault.
McKinleyville’s Sage Watrous De Salinas also capped a memorable season on the North Coast with a first place in the discus and a second place in the shot put.
‘A real special day’
The Loggers came into the day hoping to challenge for the boys team title after a much-improved spring, but lacked the overall depth of the Panthers.
“We got just about as much as we could out of just about everybody,” Eureka head coach Scott Pesch said. “Everybody did better than expected, but it would have taken a real special day to beat McKinleyville.”
The Loggers have 11 boys moving on to next week’s North Coast Section meet, as well as nine girls.
Among the highlights for Eureka was the performance of sophomore Alley Williams, who placed first in the girls shot put.
Another sophomore, Del Norte’s Caroline Hamm, was first in the discus.
Hurst, as expected, was first in the high jump, the long jump and the triple jump, while the Arcata quartet of Martel-Phillips, Kayla Jay, Mathilde Macdonald and Norlund took first in the 4×400 relay.