Young Del Norte track and field team heads into 2014 season with big numbers and big hopes

The Del Norte track and field team has been growing for the past four years under head coach Samuel Escobar. This year, there are 81 kids on the roster with about 40 boys and 40 girls.

"We have a large group of kids, and they really cover the span of high school kids," Escobar said. "There are incoming freshmen that have no confidence at all to seniors that play football. We have fast kids, slow kids and all shapes and sizes. It is cool to get that type of variety."

That didn't just happen by accident either. Escobar has put in a lot of time over the past few years trying to convince students to come out for the team.

"I have been visiting these kids in the classroom, at school in their P.E. classes, at their sports teams, just trying to develop an interest in it," Escobar said. "That is why we have so many kids. If we just let it go, nobody is going to show up."

But he didn't let it go, and Escobar himself seems to be a big part of the reason for the growing program.

"Track is really fun," said junior Kayla Costello. "Everybody gets along and Escobar is a really good guy and good coach. He does a good job with everyone."

The majority of the team this year is made up of freshmen and sophomores, which Escobar said is fairly typical for track and field.

"We have a lot more kids this year, so we are working a lot on training those new kids on what to do," said junior Chad Bell.

With so many new faces and 16 different events in which they can compete, the Warriors have been going over a little bit of everything in the preseason.

"The first few weeks have been general conditioning," Escobar explained. "Everything we do is about teaching them techniques that are part of every event."

Escobar said last year the team started with around 60 kids before settling down to less than 50 by the end of the season. The Warriors are hoping that they can keep the large numbers throughout the season.

"We are hoping that the team stays pretty big, because it is easier to get more points during league meets," Costello said.

Del Norte's top returning athlete from last season is Bell. As a freshman, Bell finished as the Humboldt-Del Norte champion in the long jump. Last year, Bell took home the long jump title again, in addition to the high jump and triple jump titles.

Bell also finished third in the 100 meter dash two years in a row. Bell is looking to expand his repertoire even further this season.

"I'm really excited about the high jump this year. I am going to try some new stuff though," Bell said. "I am hoping to go do decathlon in college, so I am going to try a bunch of different events."

This year, Bell will try to tackle the hurdles.

"He is going to be a stud hurdler," Escobar predicted. "He is definitely our fastest kid, he is definitely our best jumper, so he will probably be our best hurdler. He is just the nicest kid too."

The girls team will be led by Costello, who was third in the HDN in both the 100 and 300 meter hurdles.

"She is probably the best high hurdler right now in the league and unfortunately she is the second best long hurdler, only because Lauren McCoy from Arcata runs that same event," Escobar said. "McCoy finished third in the 300 meter hurdles in the North Coast Section finals last season."

Costello also ran a leg of the 4x100 meter relay team that finished second in the league. Rachel Rowe and Maddie Critz both return from that relay squad. Rowe and Costello also ran on the 4x400 relay that took second in the HDN finals.

Del Norte is opening their season this year with a brand-new event. The Del Norte Warrior Heptathalon is a fundraiser for the track program that will help the team cover, what Escobar estimated amounts to a $200 per kid cost for the team.

"This is the first time we have thought about doing this," Escobar said. "We had the kids go out and generate sponsors to donate a few dollars to the track program, or based off of their performance."

The heptathalon will take place March 6-7 at the high school starting at 4 p.m. both days.

Reach Michael Zogg at