By Ray Hamill — Arcata freshman Ai-Lan McGoldrick will go into Saturday’s H-DNL cross country championships at the Arcata Marsh as the clear favorite in the girls race, but it’s not so clear who’s expected to win for the boys.
McGoldrick has been nothing short of sensational in her first year competing in the league, sweeping all six league races, including winning the most recent event at the Eureka Municipal Golf Course by more than a minute.
“It’s very impressive what she’s done,” Arcata head coach James Washington said. “And she’s consistent, very consistent.”
McGoldrick is one of several outstanding freshmen in the H-DNL this season, a group that has made up the majority of the top-10 in each league race this season.
McGoldrick’s teammates Aluana Thompson, Zoe Macknicki, Ruth Godlin-Sullivan and Cleo Barnes have all impressed in their debut high school campaigns.
The Tigers are the red-hot favorites to win the league team championship after dominating all season.
Junior Vivian Gerstein is the veteran of the group and has placed second to McGoldrick in each league race, while sophomore Sydney Trieu has also been a consistent top-10 finisher for them.
Eureka also features a stellar class of freshmen who have been consistently impressive, including Charlotte Leonard and Anna Grimmett.
Junior KyleeAnna Zink-Clinton is also expected to contend for a top-five finish for the Loggers, as is Fortuna senior Maggie Stacy.
Freshman Kim Lewis and senior Hope Kibby are expected to lead the way for McKinleyville.
Stockwell, Wood the favorites for the boys
Fortuna junior Collin Stockwell will go into the boys race as a probable slight favorite, although the field of competitors is packed, with runners from four different schools regularly placing in the top five all season.
Stockwell has won the last three H-DNL meets and has placed in the top three in all five he has competed in.
Two other juniors, McKinleyville’s West Wood and Eureka’s Ian Bennett, will each also fancy their chances.
Wood won the first two H-DNL races of the season and has finished in the top two in five of the six events, while Bennett was first home in the third league race.
Bennett leads a deep Eureka team that will be favored to edge out Arcata and Fortuna.
“Eureka is the best,” Washington admitted. “But on any given day …
“I’m just hoping my kids can put it all together and try to win the league championship.”
One way or the other, the long-time Arcata coach is expecting a battle.
“It’s going to be competitive,” he said. “The boys race is going to be very competitive.”
Sophomore Jude Ortega and junior Miles Johnson are expected to lead the Arcata charge, while senior Jaeden Thayer, junior Diego Gonzales and freshman Jordan Urban give the Loggers plenty of depth.
Senior Andrew Hansen and sophomore Logan Calvert also are expected to place high for the Huskies.
Northcoast Prep sophomore Jaxon Peaker is also in contention for a top-10 finish after placing 10th at the last two league meets.
The racing action gets under way at 2 p.m., with the JV boys race, followed by the varsity girls at 2:30 p.m. and the varsity boys at 3 p.m.