By Ray Hamill — An exciting afternoon of cross country action at Del Norte on Wednesday afternoon was matched only by the enthusiasm shown by the runners, who appear to be relieved and very happy to be back competing.
“What a cool experience,” Fortuna head coach Daniel Holmes said of the occasion. “Every team was cheering each other on. It was a pretty positive thing, a great experience. It was pretty magical.”
The racing itself lived up to the occasion, with very close finishes in both the boys’ and girls’ varsity races.
Arcata’s Anneli Macdonald was first across the line in the girls’ race, barely beating teammate and sister Mathilde Macdonald, while Fortuna’s Collin Stockwell edged out Eureka’s Ian Bennett.
The runners’ collective enthusiasm has been evident in other ways too, with large numbers coming out this season for many teams.
That includes several student athletes from sports that are not currently allowed because of COVID restrictions..
Holmes’ team features several players from the very successful boys soccer team that he also coaches.
“A lot of these kids, they need something,” he said, adding that he has close to 25 runners on his roster. “We haven’t had those numbers for Fortuna cross country maybe ever, and it’s kind of been nice seeing that.”
Stockwell, a senior with plenty of experience, is expected to lead the way for the Fortuna boys and did not disappoint in the season opener.
“Talk about driven,” Holmes said of Stockwell. “He’s driven, and I’ve been super impressed with what he’s doing.”
Antonio Garcinuno (third), Logan Calvert (sixth) and Braiden Barsanti (seventh) each also placed in the top 10 for the Fortuna boys, who edged Eureka by one point for the team win, while teammates Adam Calvert (11th) and Angel Ornelas (14th) both also turned in strong performances.
And their attitude and willingness to improve has impressed the new head coach.
“They’re asking ‘what can we do, what can we do?’ and that’s what you want from an athlete,” Holmes said.
On the girls team, Holmes is expecting big things out of returning sophomore Ella Owsley and freshman Chloe Cox.
Owsley was one of a few Huskies to miss Wednesday’s meet but placed ninth in league last season.
Cox placed 16th on Wednesday to lead the way on a young Fortuna girls team, with junior teammate Teal Mostovoy one spot further back and also expected to have an impressive season.
“They’re young, but they’re trying to do the right thing and keep pushing themselves,” Holmes said.
The Huskies and the rest of the H-DNL will be back in action in the second league race of the season at the Arcata Marsh next Wednesday.