By Ray Hamill — The Fortuna Huskies have just two runners on their girls cross country team this year, but what they lack in quantity they more than make up for with quality.
Leading the charge is junior Ella Owsley, who is among the top runners in the H-DNL this season and expected to challenge for a league championship.
Owsley is one of a trio of talented juniors — along with Arcata’s Ai-Lan McGoldrick and Eureka’s Charlotte Leonard — who have led the way in league action so far.
Owsley already has a pair of top-three finishes in two league races, and should continue to show improvement as the season progresses and she returns to full health.
“She’s kind of getting back to where she should be,” said Fortuna head coach Vince Zinselmeir, who rested Owsley for a league meet two weeks ago because of a slight injury.
Last week, a conservative Owsley placed third in a league race at the Arcata Community Forest, finishing the hilly course in a time of 23 minutes, 4.5 seconds, as she eases her way back and builds toward the league championships later in the season.
Teammate Gabby Crosswhite also has been among the H-DNL leaders this season, placing seventh last week after a fourth-place finish the week before.
“They’re the only two girls on the team, but they’re pretty consistent and progressing really well,” Zinselmeir said.
McGoldrick (21:48.3) placed first on Wednesday for her second straight league win, with Leonard (23:03.5) edging Owsley for second place by just a second.
Zinselmeir, who has coached basketball in the H-DNL with Dusty Scofield at Arcata, is in his first year coaching the Huskies cross country team and has been impressed with a lot of what he’s seen from both the girls and boys as he adapts to the new role.
The Fortuna boys feature an almost completely new team this season, with several younger runners on the roster.
“It’s a totally new crew,” the coach said. “They’re good group and they enjoy being out there, and whatever workout I set them, they get out there and do it.”
Leading the way is junior Mathew Hansen, who has a pair of top-10 finishes this season and has been the Huskies’ top performer in all three races.
Luke Kamrud also is enjoying a good season with the team and leads a deep sophomore class.
“He’s been coming on strong too and getting better and better,” the coach said of Kamrud.
Freshman Noah Crosswhite also has had an immediate impact with the team and has impressed early in his first season competing in high school, as has fellow freshman Michael Hansen.
The Huskies will get an H-DNL championship preview this week, when they travel for a league race at the Arcata Marsh on Wednesday.
The league championships will be held at the Marsh in early November.