By Ray Hamill — Preparation for the upcoming cross country season will officially get under way for the defending H-DNL boys champions next week.
On Thursday, the Eureka Loggers were given the go-ahead to return to practice by the Eureka City Schools District, and that’s perfect timing for the 2019 champs, with the new season scheduled to get under way in just two months.
“We’re excited,” head coach Matt Messner said. “It’s going to be a short season, so when it starts, it’s on. You’ve got to be ready to compete immediately.”
Interest appears to be up for the Loggers, who won a tight boys championship last season and are expected to be right in the mix once again this winter.
“I think we’ll have a great turnout, probably 30 or so kids,” said Messner, who will hold his first official practice on Monday. “And we have a lot of girls interested this year. Our girls team will be bigger than ever.”
Senior Ian Bennett will lead the way for the boys and is one of three top-class H-DNL runners who is expected to challenge for a league title, along with defending champion West Wood of McKinleyville and Fortuna’s Collin Stockwell.
“They’re three of the top kids in the NCS,” Messner said. “Top five in (Division 4) NCS for sure.”
For the girls, Eureka’s KyleeAnna Zink-Clinton is a senior this year and will be looking to close out her high school career with a bang after placing second at the league championships last year.
Sophomore Charlotte Leonard is also expected to have a big year after placing eighth at the league championships as a freshman in 2019.
“We’ve got a good group of girls, and they’re very determined,” Messner said.
The Eureka City Schools District board voted unanimously to allow the Loggers resume sports activities after hearing overwhelming support in favor of the idea.
“It gives us something to look forward to and to really focus on now,” the coach said. “I was really encouraged by the unanimous vote.”
The league must still receive the go-ahead by state and local health officials before the season can begin in mid-December.
All practices will be held with COVID-19 restrictions in place.