By Ray Hamill — A short but exciting H-DNL cross country season will close out in Eureka on Friday afternoon, and it should be a thrilling finish.
Seniors Collin Stockwell of Fortuna and Ian Bennett of Eureka have enjoyed quite the friendly rivalry for much of the past few seasons with little to separate them, and fans can expect more of the same in their final high school showdown.
Stockwell has had the better of exchanges so far this season, placing first in all three races and pacing the field by almost two minutes in the most recent race at Fortuna last week. Bennett, however, deliberately held back that day in preparation for this Friday, so it wasn’t a fair indication of how the rivalry has been.
The afternoon’s action gets under way at 3 p.m., with the JV girls competing in the first of four races.
The JV boys will begin at 3:30 p.m., followed by the varsity girls at 4 and the varsity boys at 4:30.
Much like Stockwell and Bennett’s rivalry, there also has been little to give between the Fortuna and Eureka boys teams all season.
The Huskies won the opening of the three races, with the Loggers winning in week two, and Fortuna winning again in week three.
Going into Friday’s race, it appears to be a wide-open team competition between the two dominating rosters.
On the girls side, the Arcata Tigers will be the heavy favorites, after dominating all three races so far this season.
Sisters Anneli, Mathilde and Soquel Macdonald have been particularly dangerous, taking the top-three spots in each event.
Anneli, a junior, has edged her twin sister Mathilde in each race, with freshman Soquel third.
Tenacious Eureka sophomore Charlotte Leonard, who has placed fourth in each race, has been just as consistent and will be looking to sneak into the top three on Friday.
The championships will take place at the Eureka Municipal Golf Course, on what Eureka head coach Matt Messner has described as “a beautiful course with a few hills” featuring mostly unpaved terrain.
The top-seven runners will receive all-league honors, and awards will be handed out immediately following the final race.
As hosts of the event, the Eureka Loggers will honor their seniors beforehand, in what will be their final home races.
There is rain forecast for Friday.