By Ray Hamill — I’m not sure we’ve ever had such a pool of standout performances to choose from in one week, both individually and team wise.
But two teams stood out in particular over the weekend, with the Hoopa Warriors and South Fork Cubs each winning a North Coast Section championship in softball, giving the Little 4 a sweep of the small schools section championships.
It also marks the first time the H-DNL has ever won two softball section titles in the same year.
Individually, several players on each of those teams stood out and could have been included in our Athletes of the Week.
Likewise with the McKinleyville girls, who won a hard-fought NCS semifinal against Cardinal Newman on Friday, with numerous big performances.
Senior Jada Bailey, however, stood out with a spectacular diving catch in center field to seal the win.
Considering the circumstances, with the Cardinals rallying and what was at stake, it will go down as the defensive play of the season here on the North Coast.
And that earns Bailey one of our Athlete of the Week spots.
Joining her is Fortuna senior Katie Hurst, who earns the honor for the second time this month after placing eighth in the girls high jump at the state track and field championships.
For the boys, South Fork senior C.J. Van Meter gets the nod for what he did last week to get the Cubs to a second straight NCS championship game, and for what he has meant to South Fork sports during his time there.
ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
Fortuna Track and Field, Senior
Pound for pound no local high school athlete has competed at a higher level than Hurst has during her four years at Fortuna, where she made four trips to the state championships, competing in six events combined.
Most notably, this past weekend she reached the high jump finals at the prestigious meet for the fourth straight year, where she has placed in the top eight on each occasion, including a second-place finish as a sophomore.
Hurst’s legacy will be difficult to top.
For more on Hurst’s big weekend, see Hurst places eighth at state meet …
McKinleyville Softball, Senior
Bailey stepped up for her team when they needed it the most, making a sensational catch to end Friday’s NCS semifinal.
The Panthers feature a large class of seniors this season, who have grown together as a team over the years and have featured numerous stars at various stages of the season.
But if the Panthers go on to win an NCS championship on Tuesday evening, Bailey’s play will go down in Mack softball folklore as one for the ages.
For more on Bailey’s big weekend, see Spectacular defense seals championship showdown for Mack …
C.J. Van Meter
South Fork Baseball, Senior
Van Meter has been sensational on the mound for the Cubs all season and was so again last week, with two more strong outings in the NCS semifinal and championship game.
For good measure, the senior added an early home run to set the tone in Wednesday’s semifinal win over San Francisco Waldorf, and closed out his high school career with a two-RBI double in his final at-bat in Saturday’s championship game loss to Credo.
Van Meter, a multi-sport star for the Cubs, will be a tough act to follow.
For more on Van Meter’s big week, see Cubs fall to Credo, bid influential seniors farewell …
TEAMS OF THE WEEK
Hoopa Valley Softball
The Warriors won a Division-V section crown on the road in Petaluma over the weekend, their first since 2007 and sixth all time, tying them with Ferndale as the most successful H-DNL softball program in NCS play.
They did it with what head coach Glenn Moore described as a total team effort, and have now established themselves as the top program in the Little 4.
With a young and talented lineup, the Warriors should be good for a while too, and you get the feeling it’s just the start of a successful era for the team.
For more on Hoopa’s big weekend, see ‘Hoopa family’ makes history with NCS win …
South Fork Softball
The Cubs also look well placed to be competitive for the foreseeable future and have established a winning mentality with a second straight NCS Division-VI championship over the weekend.
This season the South Fork girls featured a balanced lineup, with plenty of young talent and a core group of seniors such as Regina Saloman, Jasmine Todd, Anjo Girard and Kylie Savio to lead the way.
For more on the Cubs’ big weekend, see South Fork girls save the best for last …