By Ray Hamill — Despite being edged out by Fortuna by just one point at the league opening meet on Wednesday, there were plenty of positives for the Eureka boys cross country team.
In addition to an impressive performance from standout senior Ian Bennett, who placed second and is expected to challenge for top spot in league this year, the Loggers’ second and third runners also had big days.
Daniel Shaver and Kaelan Docherty placed fourth and fifth, respectively, for the the Eureka boys, who pushed a strong and deep Huskies team all the way.
“I felt they did really well,” Eureka head coach Matt Messner said of his team. “Daniel has improved from last year and it’s really great to see that momentum. And Kaelan as well.”
The meet itself was well received by all the athletes competing, which included runners from all of the Big 5 teams.
“It was a really fun meet,” Messner said, adding that he was impressed with the camaraderie shown by all the runners, all of whom were clearly delighted to be back competing after a near year-long sports shutdown.
Charlotte Leonard, Maggie Odell and Miriam Mende led the way for the Eureka girls in their race, placing fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.
The Eureka girls also finished second as a team, 11 points behind the dominating Arcata girls, who took the top three spots.
Messner admitted some of his runners were a little rusty after such a long layoff, but says they are gradually building momentum for the league championships in early March.
“We’ve got some kids still getting in shape,” he said. “It’s been a year and a half since the last race so a lot of our kids are just clearing the cobwebs.”
The second H-DNL race of the season will take place at the Arcata Marsh this coming Wednesday, beginning at 3 p.m.
And Messner is looking forward to seeing how some of his younger and newer runners fare in particular.
“The JV and varsity races are the same distance and that will allow us to see where we stand,” the coach said. “In case we want to move some kids up from JV to varsity.”
The familiar Marsh course, which often hosts the league championships, will also allow runners compare their times to last year over the same distance and terrain.
The shortened season features just four races, including the league championships on the first weekend in March.
The Loggers are hoping to host the league championships at the Eureka Municipal Golf Course but found out this week that it will not be available on Saturday March 7, the scheduled date for the meet.
Messner said he is hoping to host the event on the Friday instead, and that if they can’t then the championships will be held at the Arcata Marsh on the Saturday.