By Ray Hamill — After a record-setting career at McKinleyville High School, Kalyssa Claros announced this week that she’s taking her talents to Cal Poly Humboldt.
The Panthers standout will compete for the Lumberjacks in track and field after establishing herself as the best girls thrower in the Big 5 over the past two seasons.
Staying local was always on the cards for Claros, who is recovering from a devastating ankle injury she suffered at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions this spring.
“I was debating between Cal Poly and CR,” she admitted. “Cal Poly has a lot of great facilities, especially for recovering athletes and that’s one reason I chose Cal Poly.
“I went to take a tour of everything, and it’s pretty cool.”
Humboldt head coach Sarah Ingram, who is the former Panthers track and field coach, has been close to Claros and her family for years and has been following her success.
“I have no doubt that you’re going to be an incredible athlete,” she told Claros and a gathering of friends and teammates at a letter signing ceremony at McKinleyville on Thursday. “I have no doubt that you’re going to fit into our team really well, and knowing that you have the support of your family and this amazing community that’s here for you, it’s just really exciting for us that we get to have a really good local athlete staying home, and that we get to offer you an experience to become be a part of our program.”
Claros was part of arguably the greatest ever class of H-DNL throwers this year, a group that enjoyed unprecedented success and included teammate Derek Ray and Eureka’s Jamin Guilbert and Joseph Gonzalez.
Both Ray (shot put) and Guilbert (discus) placed in the top 10 in state and Claros looked certain to join them at the prestigious meet before she suffered her injury on just her third throw at the Meet of Champions.
After undergoing surgery, Claros is upbeat about her recovery, which is going “pretty good,” she said.
“I’m surprised at how fast everything is healing,” she added.
It remains to be seen if she’ll be fully recovered in time to compete in 2024, but when she does return she will continue to compete in both the shot put and discus — two events she holds the Panthers school record in — and she is hoping to try a couple of new events as well.
“I’m going to work a little on the hammer, and possibly throw the javelin,” she said. “And I’m definitely looking forward to that.”
McKinleyville coach Deunn Willis also spoke to the gathering and described Claros as a “monster” in the shot put and someone quite different in between throws.
“You were as sweet as apple pie,” he said of her time at Mack High. “When I see you, you have a smile on your face, when you walk away you have a smile on your face. But when you have a shot put in your hand, your turn into a monster.”
This spring Claros placed first in league in the shot put and second to St. Bernard’s Madelyn Shanahan in the discus.
She threw a PR of 38’ 8” in the shot put at the Meet of Champions before suffering her injury, and she has a PR of 107’ 11” in the discus, which she set at this year’s league championships.
As for her time competing with the Panthers, Claros says she’ll remember all the friendships she made along the way.
“I’ll remember a lot of practices with my friends,” she said. “A lot of my friendships are from track, and it’s just a good community and a lot of fun people to be around.”
She also paid tribute to CR coach Eric Wright, who along with Eureka High’s Dan Gallardo has played a pivotal role in developing some outstanding local throwers in recent years.
“He taught me how to throw,” she said of Wright. “He’s always been so helpful.
“And my parents are really supportive, and all of my teammates. They were all really supportive and helpful.”