What happened to the real cross country weather?
No chilly wind, rain and mud were to be found at Del Norte Golf Course on Thursday. Instead, the Humboldt-Del Norte League cross country meet, hosted by Del Norte High, was run under blue skies and a warm sun.
“Overall, you couldn’t ask for a better day of running,” Del Norte assistant coach George Hartman said.
Every Warrior runner finished in the top 25 in each race, all three of which had more than 30 competitors.
Unlike other HDN meets, the meet was split into three races — a 3,200-meter junior varsity boys race, a 5,000-meter varsity girls race and a 5,000-meter varsity boys race. (Other meets have two gender-specific races.) Del Norte did not field enough competitors in the two varsity races to qualify for team titles.
Competitors raced on a kidney bean-shaped tract through Del Norte Golf Course’s first and second holes. Runners began the races at a starting line near the first green, immediately descending toward the first tee box, looping around the fairway and running back uphill. Both varsity races required runners to complete three laps; the junior varsity race necessitated two.
“This trail is pretty easy, but (running) uphill is harder than downhill,” Del Norte senior Patrick White said. “After the first uphill, you find someone you kind of want to run with and stick with them as much as possible.
“At the last downhill, you give everything you got. Just bring it home.”
White brought home a season-best finish on the year, crossing the line in eighth place in the varsity boys’ race (17 minutes, 59 seconds), 1:07 behind race winner Liam Morris of Eureka. White stayed among the race leaders early and pushed through the pain late to hold onto his position.
“I was very happy with this,” White said. “Best I’ve done all year.”
Senior Adan Rodriguez finished 10th overall (18:59) in the varsity race, with freshman Steven Vance (19:24) a few paces behind in 11th place.
“Adan runs hard,” Hartman said. “He’s not a pretty runner, he’s not loose, but he’s a strong runner. Steven is constantly improving.”
In Warriors junior Sabrina Bustamante’s second race of the season — she joined the cross country team after starting the year on the Del Norte soccer team — she maintained a steady pace en route to a 13th-place finish (24:02).
“I wanted to get 11th place, but I got 13th,” Bustamante said. “(Eleventh) is just a good number.
“A lot of (the other girls) start out fast. When I got to the uphill, I started breaking off (and running faster). It’s easier to catch them when they’re dropping.”
Warriors sophomore Samantha Henkell posted her best finish of the season as well, taking 23rd place in 27:19. Fortuna’s Michaela Barros (18:52) claimed the race victory, not quite one minute ahead of the next-fastest runner.
“At first, (I was trying) to win,” Cain said. “Then it became, catch up to the guy in front of me. I was like, ‘Ah, this is (a) short (course). I think I can go hard on this.’ That was my mistake.”
Warriors freshman Joey Godla was close behind in seventh place (13:02), with sophomore Marcus Henderson taking 11th place in 13:21.
“I tried to do something different,” Godla said. “Normally, I get back in the pack (at the start of a race). This time, I tried to get the lead. I think that’s better (strategy).”
Del Norte runners Nicholas Jacob (13:51), Jordan Ridgley (14:05), Jonathan Valladares (14:11) and Kyle Cleland (14:12) captured 15th through 18th places, respectively. Freshman Gunner Gustafson (24th, 14:54) and senior Matthew Pimentel (25th, 14:56) also competed for the Warriors.
McKinleyville High will host the next HDN cross country meet, on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Reach Robert Husseman at