By Ray Hamill — As the interest in local youth running continues to rise, the club largely responsible for the recent surge in popularity is getting some attention on a national level.
The Humboldt Redwood Running Association for Youth (HRRAY) was founded 10 years ago to build interest in youth running on a local level, and it certainly appears to have worked.
The number of schools and runners competing has seen a significant rise in recent years, and that success has been noticed, with HRRAY named the Road Runners Club of America’s National Youth Club of the Year for 2020.
“We were so excited when we heard,” said Jack West, one of the club’s three founding members, along with College of the Redwoods cross country and track and field head coach Reed Elmore, and Blue Lake teacher and running coach Sara Elie.
Unfortunately, the award presentation, which will take place in Portland, has been put on hold due to the ongoing pandemic, with no rescheduled date as of yet, but that doesn’t take from what is a very prestigious honor for the Humboldt club.
It’s also something the club has worked hard for, on the way to building a much stronger youth running culture in the county in recent years.
“I was a teacher at Fortuna, and I saw the program was kind of slipping,” said West who has been coaching locally in the sport since 1993. “And we wanted to see if we could revive it.”
They have certainly achieved that.
The number of local competitors from kindergarten to eighth grade has risen substantially since the club was founded, especially in the last six years.
This past fall, 500 youth runners signed up for the season, with at least 400 on hand at each of the six races.
“It’s pretty impressive that many schools are involved now,” West said.
And that’s not the only impact HRRAY has had on local youth sports.
The club also helps host a number of youth track and field meets each spring.
“I think a big part of it is we’ve managed to start promoting ourselves better,” West said. “And one of the highlights for us is we tend to bring in quite a (diverse) crowd. We have good runners who want to compete, and we have some runners who just want to have a good time.
“It’s a happy sport. Everybody at the meets is having a good time. We’ve got something going that make these kids feel better.”
One of the things the club is working on during these unprecedented times is virtual runs.
The club has been setting them up once a month recently on its web site, with two scheduled for August, allowing runners of all ages to run the course on their own and then posting the times.
“We’re trying to find ways of keeping the kids involved,” West said.
You can check out the virtual runs and HRRAY’s web site here …
West and HRRAY have also received plenty of community support for what they are trying to build, with Humboldt Sponsors and Arcata Sunrise each providing medals and awards annually.
HRRAY also has a close working relationship with the Six Rivers Running Club.
“Any time we need anything, they help us out,” West said.