Boasting a key transfer and seven runners from last year’s team that finished fourth in the Division II state championship meet, Ironwood Ridge High had high hopes entering this season.

So far so good.

I-Ridge, which is now in Division I, the state’s top level, won its first meet of 2013 at last week’s Northwest Showdown at Arthur Pack Park. The Nighthawks dominated as Cal Skilsky, Jordan Hellebuyck, Brandon McKay and David Fernandez all finished in the top-10 of the nine-team event.

Three days later, each of those four ran the 5k course at the Chandler Invitational in less than 17 minutes.

The Star recently sat down with the four Nighthawks — who return to Arthur Pack today for the Northwest Rundown featuring eight teams — to find out more:

The Prodigal Son

Who: Jordan Hellebuyck

Bio: The senior is back with the Nighthawks after spending two successful seasons at Canyon del Oro. As a freshman at I-Ridge, Hellebuyck said he and coach Gary Forrest constantly butted heads. Now, Hellebuyck says he’s more mature and more comfortable back at his old school. Hellebuyck is a big addition: He finished 10th at state last season in 16 :43.63.

Most memorable meet: As a sophomore, Hellebuyck took fourth in the Division II 3,200-meter state final during the track season despite a stress fracture in his leg.

He said it: “I’m always willing to help my teammates. I’d say I’m a pretty decent leader. I really try to motivate my team.”

– Hellebuyck

The Quiet Leader

Who: Cal Skilsky

Bio: The Nighthawks’ top runner from last year returns for his senior season with something to prove. Skilsky finished 11th in state (16:43.63), just a second behind now-teammate and buddy Hellebuyck. The

friendly rivalry should push both seniors this year.

Most memorable meet: Skilsky took first place in the 2010 Mt. SAC Cross Country Invitational freshman race in Walnut, Calif., considered the world’s largest meet featuring more than 500 schools.

He said it: “My strongest trait is probably just endurance, working through the race and finishing just as hard as I start.” – Skilsky

The Budding Star

Who: Brandon McKay

Bio: The 6-foot-4-inch McKay finished 30th at state last year, but blossomed into an elite runner during the track season. Forrest said the junior has the chance to be the Nighthawks’ top runner if he continues to progress and believe in himself.

Most memorable meet: The sophomore McKay edged out his friend, Mountain View’s Jacob Boubion, to win the 3,200-meter run at April’s Mario Castro Track Invitational.

He said it: “At the end of the race I just book it and hit the kill switch.” – McKay

The Wild Card

Who: David Fernandez

Bio: Fernandez finished 24th at state as a sophomore; since then, his sprint speed and endurance have improved. Fernandez said he’s looking forward to competing against the two seniors in practice this season.

Most memorable meet: After beginning the Desert Twilight XC Festival in dead last as a freshman in 2011, Fernandez recovered to set a then-personal best of 16:35.40.

He said it: “Fernandez is the one guy I have to keep pushing because he can be as good as he wants to be.” – Forrest