By Ray Hamill — The Hoopa Warriors will be back competing in high school sports this coming week, when they head to Arcata for the second H-DNL cross country meet of the season.
It’s been 11 months since the Warriors officially competed in any sport and head coach Benny Griggs says his runners are just glad to be back out there after such a long layoff.
“I can tell they really want to be out there,” Griggs said. “And they’re just happy to be doing something physical again.”
Griggs, who is the Warriors’ long-time track and field coach, is in his first season with the cross country team and has been impressed with the effort and attitude from his runners.
“The runs I send them on, they’re working it,” the coach said. “They’re just good kids and they want to work hard.”
It’s also been a learning experience for the new coach, who is more used to coaching field events and jumps in track and field.
He says, however, that he is enjoying the new challenge.
“They’re learning as we go and I’m learning as we go,” he said. “We’re learning together.”
The new coach has 11 runners on his team, including seven girls, led by the experienced Trinity Colegrove.
The junior standout is back from last year’s team and appears ready to take on a leadership role.
According to Griggs, she has matured as a competitor and has benefited from two years of competing in distance running in track, in addition to her cross country background.
“She’s got some experience, and she’s been working hard. She’s been working hard for two years,” Griggs said. “She’s always going to give it all she’s got, but now (with her experience) she’s going to have tactics and strategy behind her.”
In addition to Colegrove, the new coach is also expecting big things this season from a couple of younger girls on his squad, sophomore Tatiana Rey and freshman Julia Jackson.
“Julia is a freshman girl who’s going to be really good,” the new coach said. “She came in ready. At training she’s always the first girl in.”
Rey, meanwhile, showed a lot of promise in junior high, impressing Griggs when she ran for the first time in eighth grade.
Griggs also has some young talent on the boys team, where freshman Isha-Kom McConnell has looked impressive in preseason training.
“I just like his work ethic and his stamina,” Griggs said. “Before we even started he was out there on his own and putting in the work. He’s going to do very well for us.”
The Warriors did not travel for last Wednesday’s league-opening meet in Del Norte, instead continuing to prepare for the season.
“We kind of thought it was a little too early because we only began practice at the beginning of the month,” Griggs said. “But we have everything taken care of now and we will be at the next meet.”
The meet will take place at the Arcata Marsh on Wednesday.