Corona’s track program had is best year in recent history with the boys team capturing second place at the Division I state track meet May 8 and 11 at Mesa Community College when two relay teams not only gave the Aztecs valuable points but were crowned state champions, one for the second year in a row.
The 4×800 relay team of Nicholas Creasman, Patrick Buck, Cody Jackson and Nate Rodriguez gave Corona back-to-back state champions and the fastest time this season when they crossed the finish line in 7:51.19.
“Taking the 4×800 for the second straight time at state was an incredible feeling” said coach Tim Kelly. “We had been running different teams due to injury and to give those kids a chance to do something really special. They worked really hard, have great chemistry and ran an excellent race at state.”
The 4×400 team of Tevin Mayfield, Quinn Robertson, Buck and Creasman not only took first with a time of 3:18.24 but also set a new school record.
Rodriquez proved he is one to contend with in the distance running events taking second place in the 1600 and 3200 meter runs and third in the 800 meter.
Mayfield shows his prowess in the hurdles taking third in both the 110 meter and 300 meter hurdles.
Corona had several athletes with strong finishes at the state meet in the running events including Creasman talking 5th and Buck 12th in the 800 meter run, Ryan Normand 9th and Whitney 13th in the 1600 meter run, Whitney 6th and Normand 12th in the 3200 meter run and the team of Brian Skinner, Gergen VanderKnoop, George Wright and Colin Freeland 8th in the 4×100 relay.
In the field event, senior Aaron Simons had the top finish for the Aztecs when he threw the discus 174-02 to take second place at state but also ended his career at Corona ranked No. 2 in the state this season.
Other Corona athletes who competed in the state meet included Freeland 16th in the high jump, Matt Eckles 14th in the pole vault, Wright 17th and Skinner 21st in the long jump, Wright 16th and Wyatt Larson tied for 23rd in the triple jump while Simons was 22nd in the shot put.
The girls team finished in the middle of the pace at 14th out of 30 Division I teams who competed in the state meet.
“Although the girls team didn’t quite have the season they wanted, they were extremely successful with some great newcomers to the team,” said Kelly. “They should be proud of their growth and ability to score and place in the relays which is a great reflection of team work and growth.”
The 4×100 relay team of Grace Ashu, Justice Onwordi, Isabelle Cartagena and Gabrielle Dotson proved this point by finishing 5th at the state meet as did the 4×400 relay team of Cartagena, Aery Ware, Mason Swenson and Hallie Swenson when they placed 6th.
Corona’s 4×800 relay team of Cartagena, Mason Swenson, Samantha Moore and Kelly Naumann also took 6th place.
Ashu took 6th in the 300 meter hurdles and the two Swenson sisters, Mason and Hallie, finished 8th and 9th respectively in the 800 meter run while Samantha Moore was 15th in the 3200 meter run.
Only two Corona athletes qualified this season for the field events. Lauren Lucky took 17th in the shot put while Stephanie Allen was 20th in the triple jump event.
“We will be loaded next year with young girls,” said Kelly. “We need to work on developing the same love and work ethic the boys developed a couple of years ago and they could be really good the next few years.”
A month ago the team realized they had a chance to take either first or second place at state.
“The expectation was there a month ago so our focus was on stepping up, working hard and concentrating on not having a letdown in performance during the meets,” said Kelly. “Our kids did a fantastic job representing themselves and the school this season and we couldn’t be any prouder of them.”
The track team will return most of their athletes next year and the excitement about the possibility of winning state next year is already building.
“One of the best things we heard after the state meet was how the kids were talking about working hard in the off-season and getting back to having a chance to win next year,” said Kelly. “The standard has been set and now the kids are setting the bar higher for themselves and the team.”
Corona Baseball — The Aztecs (16-13) were given a second chance, so to speak, when they barely squeaked in as the No. 24 seed in the Division I state playoff tournament after injury and a tough schedule had them struggling mid-way through the season. But they took full advantage of that second chance by ending up as one of the last six teams still playing before losing in the quarterfinals in the double elimination tournament.
“We went through a rough patch mid-season, and with our meat grinder schedule, it cost us some power rating spots but we responded at the end and won five of our last six,” said coach Dave Webb. “Once we got in at 24, and we are way better than our 24 spot, by the way, we knew we could make some noise.”
The Aztecs switched to a more aggressive-type baseball for the playoffs surprising No. 9 seed Hamilton, a team they had lost to twice in the regular season, 6-5 in the first round.
Corona crushed No. 8 St. Mary’s in the second round 12-2.
“We played very aggressive baseball in the playoffs and I think it got to St. Mary’s with our multiple steals, bunt and run, hit and run plays,” said Webb. “We made them play defense as well, lots of ground balls. We played great defense and Jake Martin threw a gem.”
In the third round, the Aztecs were in a position to continue their “Cinderella” playoff run but a botched play allowed No. 1 Desert Mountain to score a run and win 5-4. That lose put Corona in the loser’s bracket. One more lose and the Aztecs were out.
“Desert Mountain was a very physical and well coached team,” said Webb. “We battled our rear ends off and put ourselves in a great position to win but unfortunately, it just didn’t happen. It was a fantastic effort, though.”
Corona fought back to defeat No. 5 Tolleson, 10-4, before being eliminated from the tournament by Mountain Pointe 4-11.
“The Mountain Pointe game was just good old high school baseball where both team were working hard not to be eliminated,” said Webb. “We scored with two successive hit and runs and a squeeze bunt to go up 4-1 but Mountain Point battled back. Then we struggled throwing strikes and making pitches. It happens, but I can say I am extremely proud of each and every one of our players.”
“They bought into our game plan of pressure baseball, and we excelled,” said Webb. “It was a fun ride in the playoffs.”
The team will need to reload next season because they are losing 14 seniors to graduation: Billy Clemens, Jeff Carter, Chris Tate, Thomas Gordon, Jake Martin, Josh Ethier, Nick Marciano, Ryan Riley, Shawn Maloney, Rick Riley, Nick Radford, Charlie Markman, Jake Fett and Colby Hamilton.
“Yes, we are losing a lot, some really great kids, but luckily I feel as though we have the pieces to stay competitive and win next year,” said Webb.