Heavy turnout among freshmen and sophomores strengthens team
Of all the numbers behind Del Norte High track and field's successful 2013 campaign, two stand out: 65 and 52.
The former number represents the number of students that went out for the Warriors track team, nearly triple that of 2012.
The latter number represents the number of kids who stayed beyond the initial practices and mandatory grade checks to compete for Del Norte.
"We're pleased with our outlook," Warriors head coach Samuel Escobar said. "We're pleased with the large numbers, (and) the kids have improved."
Escobar actively recruited Del Norte High students and worked with head football coach Ray Rook and head volleyball coach Debbie Lorenzi to incorporate track and field into fall sport workout programs.
He also tapped into freshman and sophomore classes that have participated in track and field at the middle school level and entered high school with some enthusiasm for the sport. Escobar credited Scott Lindsay, the former Del Norte High track coach who now directs middle-school track meets, for instilling this base in track and field.
"Based on numbers and the fact that they've had a little experience, they'll attract other kids," Escobar said of the younger athletes. "Kids that weren't particularly skilled across the board were still able to enjoy it."
Del Norte had a strong season overall. The Warriors' boys team finished third at the Humboldt-Del Norte League Championship meet on May 10. The Del Norte girls finished second, snapping a run of three consecutive league titles.
Twenty-three Warriors qualified for the Redwood Empire Area Track and Field Championships in Santa Rosa on May 18. Five eventually moved on to the California Interscholastic Federation North Coast Section Meet of Champions on May 24 in Berkeley.
Senior Katelynn Rowe, the lone senior girl on the Warriors, was one of two Del Norte athletes to compete in three events at the Meet of Champions. Rowe set personal bests in six events during the season, including the 400 meters (58.84 seconds), her individual event at the meet of champions. Rowe intends to compete next season for American River College in Sacramento.
"Katelynn Rowe has been a perfect example of what a track athlete should be," Escobar said. "She works hard, she improves, she manages her time well on the track. For her, she would be like the girl outstanding performer."
Sophomore Kayla Costello also competed in three events at the Meet of Champions, individually in the 300-meter hurdles. Costello set a personal record in that event (46.98 seconds), never finishing below fourth place in a 300 hurdles race until the Meet of Champions.
"She doesn't give up," Escobar said of Costello. "She's determined to win and not let someone else beat her."
Freshmen Rachel Rowe, Maddie Critz and Joely Tynes joined Katelynn Rowe and Costello in the relay events at the Meet of Champions.
Sophomore Chad Bell, the top performer for the Del Norte boys, made great strides in his second year of high school track and field. Bell finished the year with personal bests in six events and earned three White Stars (high jump, long jump, triple jump) at the HDN finals.
"That's studly," Escobar said.
Six seniors will graduate from the 2013 squad, leaving the freshmen and sophomores to carry the team. That appears fine with them, and with Escobar.
"That's how you build programs - you don't go out there and get the seniors and the juniors," he said. "You develop a nice, cohesive team."
In addition to building up interest and participation in Del Norte track and field, Escobar has his eye on the state of the equipment the program uses on a day-to-day basis.
His main priority is raising funds for a shed or similar structure to house the program's hurdles, which are currently kept alongside the track or outside the storage sheds.
"Right now they're out in the elements. They just get beat up by the weather," Escobar said. "Beyond that, it'd be nice to have brand-new hurdles. That would be a future goal."
Escobar is also concerned with the state of Del Norte's eight-year-old blue track, which he says is showing signs of wear and tear beyond its age. He intends to propose what he candidly admits is an "unpopular" measure: Restricting public access to the track when school is not in session.
"It's not something the community would be as favorable (toward), but we would like to see the track off-limits to the community," Escobar said. "People go out there and mistreat it. They take their bicycles out there, their pets out there.
"Is it properly maintained? No. Could it be looking nicer? It could."
Reach Robert Husseman at email@example.com.