By Ray Hamill — This past week, McKinleyville senior Benicio Benavides-Garb became the latest player from the local Eagles travel team to take his soccer talents to the collegiate level, although he won’t have to travel as far as his teammates to do so.
On Monday, Benavides-Garb signed a letter of intent to play for Humboldt State next season, joining the local Division-II program right out of high school.
And it was a decision, he says, that was based at least in part on family.
“I’ve always been following Humboldt State and I know what a great team they are, and my father (Rosamel) is an associate dean there,” he said. “So there was that, and as a player to play at the highest level possible attracted me.”
He will join a Jacks program that last season featured five local standouts, including three underclassmen, and has more of a local presence than most HSU teams.
Benavides-Garb will continue that tradition, while also becoming the latest member of the Eagles squad to take his talents to the next level.
The roster of local all-stars collectively opted to not play for their respective high schools last season and instead play together on the travel team circuit against far better competition, in order to help them improve their game better.
And it’s a decision that has paid off for many of the players who have committed to various colleges in recent weeks.
Benavides-Garb believes the experience with the Eagles helped prepare him for college soccer.
“I’ll remember the bond this team had together,” he said. “It was a bunch of local kids wanting to play at the highest level possible.
“I wouldn’t be at the level I am today without my experience with the Eagles.”
It wasn’t the only experience that has helped prepare him for the next chapter of his life.
Benavides-Garb spent his junior year as an exchange student in in France, developing his game and language skills.
He speaks three languages.
Mack High principal Nic Collart told the gathering at the signing that Benny the student was “driven and smart.”
“We’re proud to have had you here at McKinleyville and proud of what you have accomplished,” Collart said. “I can’t think of someone with higher character than you.”
Last season the Jacks were 7-8-2.