By Ray Hamill — With just two meets remaining on this year’s local high school track and field season, there are plenty of close races to keep an eye on.
On the boys side, the Fortuna Huskies are the clear frontrunners after dominating the opening two meets with plenty of depth.
The girls competition, however, should be closer.
The Eureka Loggers are coming off a big team win at McKinleyville on Wednesday, but the Arcata Tigers won the previous week at Fortuna and have the talent and depth in the distance races to give them a chance.
Individually, there are several close races to keep an eye over the next two weeks.
Here are six that likely won’t disappoint …
1 — The boys 800m and 1600m
Seniors Collin Stockwell of Fortuna and Ian Bennett of Eureka have battled neck and neck for most of their high school careers and they appear poised to do so once again in their final prep races.
Stockwell got the better of his rival in cross country, winning all four races, including the league championship.
But Bennett has had the better of exchanges on the track so far this season, winning both the 800m and 1600m in each of the past two meets.
Whether Stockwell can rise to the challenge or whether Bennett can continue to set the pace remains to be seen, but it should be a finish well worth watching.
2 — The 4x100m girls relay
Less than half a second separated the Eureka and Mack girls on Wednesday, with Eureka’s Klayre Barres barely holding off Mackenzie Bray on the final leg.
It was the second straight meet the Loggers won the event, but it’s been close both times and is expected to be so again in the final two meets.
Ginny Brooks, Emily Pesch, Brynn Hales and Taziyah Harris have each featured for Eureka in addition to Barres, while Bray, Leah Circe, Soffia Reyes and Kathryn Tinney have featured for McKinleyville.
3 — Both 100m sprints
As usual, there has been little to separate the top finishers in the sprints, and that should continue to be the way for the remainder of the short season.
On the boys side, Fortuna’s Connor Pratt has won the past two races, barely edging out McKinleyville’s Isaac Ward on each occasion, with Hoopa’s Larry Tracy, Ferndale’s Cayden Collings and Fortuna’s Levi Nyberg each also in contention.
On the girls side, McKinleyville’s Soffia Reyes and Del Norte’s Gianna Taylor have each won once, with Barres a close second in both races.
Pesch and Del Norte’s Tianna Thompson each also have been in contention.
4 — Girls high jump
Fortuna’s Skylar Little appears to be the frontrunner in this event, having placed first in each of the opening two league meets, although Eureka’s Bella Vigil tied her for top spot at Mack on Wednesday.
Little has been a top competitor since her freshman year and would be a fitting champion here.
But she should be pushed all the way by Vigil, Barres and Del Norte’s Lily Sherman and Teresa Martinez.
5 — Boys pole vault
We’ve only seen competition in this event once so far this season, with Del Norte and Fortuna the only H-DNL teams competing in it.
But expect a tight three-athlete battle between Fortuna’s Bo Cox and Tai Bolden and Del Norte’s Gabe Howard at the league championships in two weeks.
The talented trio are well ahead of the rest of the field, with little between them.
6 — Boys 4×400 relay
Fortuna’s Cox, Pratt, Angel Ornelas and Stockwell edged out McKinleyville’s Jayson Rodriquez, Jace Thompson, Ward and Nathan Witte by less than a second at McKinleyville on Wednesday.
That’s a fine margin over 1600 meters.
It was the second straight week the Huskies got the better of their McKinleyville rivals, but the gap is narrow enough to suggest either team could take top spot at the league championships.