Eureka, a small city on California’s North Coast, is surrounded by many Native American tribes. Behind the Redwood Curtain, there are the Eel River Athapaskan peoples, Hoopa, Karuk, Mattole, Wiyot, and Yurok tribes. These tribes are all indigenous to the Humboldt County area. Also in Eureka is a community college called College of the Redwoods. Native American students have the opportunity to continue their education beyond high school at College of the Redwoods inexpensively while staying close to home—there are also campuses in Hoopa and Del Norte County for students who cannot access the main campus in Humboldt County.
Not only are these Native American students able to continue their studies close to home, but they can also continue their athletic aspirations with the College of the Redwoods athletics program. Redwoods Athletics offers most sports at the college including track and field, which is led by head coach Reed Elmore. The Lady Corsairs have four throwers, three who are Native American students and one who is of Hispanic descent. All three ladies are from local tribes and decided to stay close to their communities. They hope to earn athletic scholarships to help continue their education at the university level. After earning their degrees, they want to return home to help their communities.
The track and field throwing events include shot put, discus, hammer, and javelin throw. In California, the only throwing events in high school are the shot put and discus. For athletes who decide to continue their athletic careers in the throws can then add hammer and/or javelin to their list of events. With the added events, it gives the athletes a more versatile repertoire to potentially earn a scholarship to the university level when they take the junior college route. College of the Redwoods has four female athletes that have taken this route and are competing to earn an athletic scholarship to the next level in the throws.
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Sophomore Grace Bruschi, of Del Norte High School, in Crescent City, California, leads the pack in her second season with College of the Redwoods. Grace is a member of the Karuk Tribe, in the most northern part of California. She was also a key player for the college’s women’s basketball program their last two seasons. Grace is returning after being a four-event NorCal qualifier in her freshman season. Her primary events being the discus, javelin and hammer. After her freshman season she started gaining on the school records in the discus and hammer. This season could be a very successful season for her because she is training to break those records as well as the javelin record. There are multiple universities who have expressed interest in her athletic abilities for their programs when she moves on to the next level. Grace is majoring in Kinesiology and plans to become a physical therapist after college. She wants to return to her hometown of Crescent City to start her practice.
Fellow sophomore Priscilla Masten, Hoopa and Yurok, is from Hoopa Valley High School. Priscilla started her collegiate career at Shasta College, and as a freshman was a NorCal qualifier in the shot put and hammer. As a sophomore, Priscilla set her eyes on the school’s hammer record. Her personal best throw at Shasta was far enough to break the College of the Redwood’s current record. In her first meet in a Redwoods uniform she broke the record by almost a foot. After an exhibition meet with Humboldt State University, the college’s closest competition, the coaches expressed interest in her transferring to there after she completes her associate’s degree, to continue her throwing career. Priscilla has not yet decided on her major and is currently focused on completing the coursework to allow her to transfer to a four-year institution.
Freshman Naishian Richards, also of Hoopa Valley High School, is a member of the Hoopa, Western Shoshone, and Yurok tribes. Naishian enters her first season in a Redwoods uniform after being a top high school thrower in the local Humboldt-Del Norte County League. Naishian has shot put and discus experience and has now added hammer to her list of events. Her goal is to qualify for the NorCal Championships in all three—shot put, discus, and hammer. She’d also like to break at least one school record before she moves on to the next level. Naishian plans on majoring in Business so she can move back to Hoopa and open a restaurant in her community. She also wants to go to Nevada to help her mother’s Shoshone community on the Duckwater Reservation after she graduates.
Rounding out the Redwoods women’s throwing crew is freshman Mariah Donato, from Bell Gardens High School in the Los Angeles area. Mariah is of Mexican and Cuban descent. After deciding to change her major, Mariah transferred to the College of the Redwoods to save money. She threw shot put and discus in high school and started throwing hammer when she started at Redwoods. Her goals this season are to qualify for all three events for the NorCal Championships and to qualify in at least one event for the California State Championships. She’d also like to eventually break the school record in discus and hammer. After College of the Redwoods Mariah plans on joining the Naval Academy and hopes to throw for them while she is there. Her plan is to become a firefighter after the Navy.
The current women’s throwing crew is the best the College of the Redwoods has had since the program’s return in 2010. These women have already broken one school record and have their eyes on all four. They are doing all of this with less than functional facilities as construction takes place in Community Stadium at the college. They all have the ability to throw at the collegiate level and the potential to earn scholarships to the next level.
Not only that, these Native American students all want to go back to their hometowns and help improve their Native communities. All four of these ladies are utilizing the opportunity given to them to get their first two years of college completed at a low cost, and are training hard to earn scholarships to help pay their next two years of school. Because College of the Redwoods is hidden behind the Redwood Curtain, these athletes aren’t seen everywhere, but that doesn’t stop them from shining in their sport.
Eric Wright is Throws Coach at College of the Redwoods.