By Ray Hamill — The Corsairs have been building momentum in track and field for the past few seasons, and that’s showing no signs of slowing down.
College of the Redwoods head coach Reed Elmore and his assistants have hit the local recruiting trail hard and it’s paying dividends, and that has continued this spring with the addition of seven local standouts, all of whom are expected to have an immediate impact at the local community college.
The women’s team was particularly impressive this spring, claiming a conference championship and winning a first-ever individual state championship when Hannah Hartwell placed first in the 5,000 meters, one of four top-two finishes for the team at the prestigious meet.
And Elmore believes that success has helped with the recruiting.
“I think it helps a lot, especially with the local recruiting,” he said. “All of them are looking at us as a way to get better.”
The 2022 recruiting class includes H-DNL standout Josh Mahle of Eureka, as well as a trio of talented athletes from the league champion Del Norte boys and girls teams, Emmanuel Nunez, Alyssa McCovey and Tianna Thompson.
Also committing to compete for the Corsairs are McKinleyville’s Rocco Previde, who will also play soccer for CR, and former Eureka Logger Alexandra Panarra and former Arcata Tiger Iona Mahoney.
The addition of the speedy McCovey and Thompson, in particular, has Elmore excited.
“Our (4×100 meter) relay team was good this year, but with these two we can go to state,” he said.
Thompson hopes so too.
“I saw how good the girls team at CR did this year and hopefully we can do better next year,” she said. “And hopefully I can be a part of that.”
The Gasquet native was an H-DNL champion this year in both the 200 meters and the 4x100m relay, as well as placing third in the 400m final.
She played a key role in helping the Warriors win both the boys and girls league championships.
“She’s just talented and dedicated,” Elmore said. “You can win on talent in high school, but at the JC level you better outwork your opponent and Tianna does that.”
McCovey, who was a three-sport standout for the Warriors, is another hard worker, according to the coach, and will compete in the sprints and hurdles for CR after placing second in both hurdles events at this year’s H-DNL championships.
Her high school coach Taylor Duncan feels she has what it takes to succeed at the collegiate level.
“She’s a really versatile athlete, and really a technician in hurdles,” Duncan said. “She’s really focused on getting better. She has a lot of potential.”
Nunez also is expected to have an immediate impact.
“He just has a great work ethic,” Duncan said. “He’s got positive energy every day and really is willing to do whatever we ask him to do.”
Nunez, who will run the 400m for CR, said one of the reasons he choose the school is the support the coaches have shown in helping him adjust to college life, both athletically and academically.
And Elmore believes that as long as he puts in the works he has a “huge upside” on a CR men’s team that is fast establishing itself as a force in the Golden Valley Conference and one that placed second in the conference championships this year.
Previde, meanwhile, joins a very strong men’s CR throwing program under the direction of assistant coach Eric Wright.
“He’s just a good all-around athlete and he’s got a great attitude,” Elmore said of the Mack graduate. “He’s going to get better. He’s got the size. He’s got the tools.”
Mahle could be the best athlete of them all after a huge spring in the shot put and discus at Eureka High.
And, according to Elmore, his enthusiasm for track and field stands out.
“He’s got a good relationship with Eric,” Elmore said. “And he loves the sport. He’s into it. He will go out and throw on his days off.”
Panarra is a 2021 Eureka High graduate who is a talented distance runner and another athlete the head coach is excited to add to his conference championship roster.
“She’s got a big upside,” Elmore said. “If we can get her in our year-round program she can improve a lot.”
Mahoney, meanwhile, is a 2017 Arcata High graduate and another talented distance runner.
The former Tiger will compete in the 5,000m and her coaches love her work ethic.
“She’s self-motivated,” Elmore said. “She trains as much as she can on her own.”
Overall, the CR head coach likes the direction his program is taking this offseason.
“We’re doing really well,” he said. “We’ve got a lot more women than we’ve ever had.”
Hartwell is expected to continue to compete for the Corsairs at least through the cross country season this fall and Elmore expects her to have an outstanding career at a four-year program.
“I have no idea how great she can be,” he said. “Her talent is off the chart.”
Chance Heftner, who placed second in state in both the shot put and the hammer, also could be back for his sophomore season next spring, although former St. Bernard’s Crusader Josie Peterson is expected to move on to a four-year program after her phenomenal debut season in the javelin, which saw her place second at state.
All in all, it was an incredible spring for the Corsairs and that should continue into 2023.