Young athletes officially open new James Washington track

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – Action from Tuesday’s meet at the new Arcata track.

By Ray Hamill — Even if most of the competitors were unaware of what it all meant, the local track and field community got to officially celebrate a Humboldt County legend on Tuesday afternoon.

Organized by Six Rivers Running Club and Humboldt Redwoods Running Association for Youth (HRRAY), a kindergarten to fourth grade track and field meet was held at the new James Washington Track at Arcata High.

It was the first-ever meet at the new facility, which was completed a year ago and named after the legendary Tigers coach.

The local high school teams won’t compete on it until next year

The track is part of the new Arcata High sports complex, which also includes a soccer field and a baseball field, with the Tigers just recently playing their first-ever game on the latter as well.

Most of the competitors seemed to enjoy the occasion, and who knows, but perhaps someday some of them will compete on a team coached by Washington.

The longtime Arcata High cross country and track and field coach has influenced countless athletes over the years and annually fields a league contender in both sports, as well as some of the deepest rosters in the entire league, all of which is a testament to his hard work and recruitment.

Tuesday’s meet was the second and final of the season for the kindergarten to fourth-graders, following the recent event held at College of the Redwoods earlier this month.

Approximately 150 youngsters competed, many of them getting their first taste of the sport and apparently relishing the occasion despite the cold weather.

“We’ve been doing this for a while and it’s been growing and getting more successful,” said Jack West of HRRAY, who helped organize the occasion along with the Six Rivers Club and College of the Redwoods. “The kids just run and have fun.”

The young athletes competed in the 50 meter dash, the 4x100m relay, the 800m for K-to-second graders, the mile for third and fourth graders, the 100m dash, the 400m, the long jump and baseball throw.

After the meet, the youth season immediately switched to the older kids, with the fifth through eighth graders enjoying the first of four spring meets at McKinleyville High on Thursday afternoon.

Close to 500 local fifth to eighth graders are expected to compete this spring, with a huge crowd on hand for Thursday’s season opener.

(We’ll have some photos and reaction from that meet in the coming days.)

Additional meets for the fifth through eighth graders will be held at Fortuna next Thursday and at CR on May 6, with the county championships at Fortuna on May 13.

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