Benefield: Cross country teams watch, wait as Kincade fire blazes on
Windsor High cross country coach Brandon Bronzan wants to talk about running, but that doesn’t feel quite right at the moment.
Bronzan, who like most high school coaches spends hour upon hour with his athletes before, during and after the season, on this day doesn’t know where many of them are. Forced from their homes by frantic evacuation orders issued as the Kincade fire marched its way closer to the town’s borders, the Jaguars are scattered.
“We are in Novato, we are in Petaluma, we are in Sacramento,” Bronzan said. “We are all over the place.”
They were supposed to have a dual meet with Analy on Wednesday. Their home course? It was on fire the last time Bronzan looked. The last view he had of Foothill Regional Park on Arata Lane was of flames from the massive Kincade fire and the parking lot being used as a staging area for a firefighting attack.
“Our park was on fire, the place we train every Monday,” he said. Piner High uses Foothill as its home course, too. “They were staging things in the parking lot where we meet to go on our runs.”
For Healdsburg coach Kate Guthrie, it was much the same.
The Greyhounds’ home course is at Hoot Owl Creek Vineyards on Highway 128 in Alexander Valley — an area at the heart of the early hours of the blaze.
“From what I understand, parts of it are burned. I don’t think it’s all gone,” she said. But she couldn’t be sure.
Both Bronzan and Guthrie said it is hard to think about running or schedules or courses when the Kincade fire is still raging and the danger is still very real.
“I feel like it’s a little bit of a tender time for people,” Guthrie said from Boonville, where she has evacuated.
Bronzan is hunkered down with his family in El Dorado. Both he and Guthrie are trying to keep tabs on their athletes, but it’s been hard.
Both teams, as well as Ukiah, Santa Rosa, Maria Carrillo, Montgomery, Elsie Allen, Piner, Cardinal Newman, Rancho Cotate, El Molino and Analy were supposed to race today. No one will.
North Bay League officials have once again tinkered with the schedule. It feels partly like great organization and partly like wishful thinking to plan for racing to restart in a week and a half.
They will once again hold a race within a race, having teams go head-to-head with specific schools but also score the meet as a league championship. The NBL-Oak schools — Santa Rosa, Montgomery, Maria Carrillo, Healdsburg, Ukiah and Piner — will race Friday, Nov. 8. The Redwood Division schools — Rancho Cotate, Elsie Allen, Analy, El Molino, Cardinal Newman and Windsor — will race Saturday, Nov. 9.
It’s the same scramble that coaches, athletic directors and league officials are making across the North Bay, with everyone acknowledging that sports are not a priority at the moment, but that they do, in fact, provide some respite for many.
“I don’t think anyone is thinking about the cross country meet,” Bronzan said.
Neither he nor Guthrie are getting on their kids to stay in shape. At this point, they are simply confirming they are safe.