By Ray Hamill — It’s been a season to savor for the Hoopa Warriors in cross country and they hope to continue that at this weekend’s North Coast Section championships in Hayward.
The Warriors will make the trip south after a successful league championship meet at the Arcata Marsh recently, which included a top-five finish for one runner and a third-place finish for the boys team.
The Hoopa boys edged Fortuna in an exciting battle for third by just one point (97-98), and their top three runners will compete in Saturday’s NCS meet.
Jackson, who enjoyed her highest finish ever in a 5K race, crossed the finish line in a time of 22 minutes, 23 seconds.
“All the hard work over the past four years really paid off for her,” Hoopa head coach Benny Griggs said of the senior standout. “She really worked hard for everything she has.”
After placing 17th at the league meet last year and 16th the year before, Jackson took a big step forward this year with five top-seven finishes in her six league races.
“The way she came out every meet, she was placing in the top 10,” Griggs said. “She had her best meet at the H-DNL (championships) and that’s just down to her hard work and dedication over the last four years.”
She wasn’t the only Warrior to impress.
Ruby Jackson was the fourth best freshmen girl at the league championships and appears ready to take on a bigger role with the team.
“For a freshman she did really well for us,” Griggs said. “I’m losing a really strong runner (Julia Jackson) and replacing her with someone who can take that spot and keep that going and entice other girls to come out.”
Trinity Moore was the third Hoopa girl to compete and also saved her best for the biggest league race of the season, placing 24th with a PR of 28:11.
All three Hoopa girls will make the trip to Hayward for Saturday’s NCS meet, along with three Hoopa boys, senior Robert McConnell and juniors Sequoyah Valentine and Raymond Baldy.
McConnell led the way for the Hoopa boys at the league meet and placed 19th overall with a PR time of 19:34, while Valentine was 25th in a time of 21:48 and Baldy just one spot further back in a PR time of 21:53.
“That’s a big accomplishment for our eight boys to place third as a team,” Griggs said. “Those eight dudes, they did their thing.”
McConnell has had to battle back from a torn ACL in his sophomore year, and similar to Julia Jackson all the hard work paid off for him this season.
“He’s been working his way back, working his way back, and I think he just got confident enough to let loose and go for it,” his head coach said. “He worked his butt off to get back.”
Valentine, meanwhile, was the second best of the Hoopa boys after coming out this season to stay in shape for the spring high school track and field season, where he is expected to be among the best sprinters in the H-DNL.
Baldy was arguably the overachiever of the team.
“We didn’t think he was going to come out and run like that,” Griggs said of Baldy. “And he was the third best runner on the team.”
Santiago Moon placed 29th at the league meet in a time of 23:04, followed by teammates and fellow sophomores Keyton Gulley (23:50) in 32nd, Joseph Smith (23:57) in 33rd and Riley Baldy (25:44) in 39th.
Hoopa junior Antonio Correa also impressed and finished 36th in a time of 24:32.