The Aztecs started the season in the same manner as they did in 2013 when they went on to take home the state championship trophy by winning their first meet, with two of their senior runners, Nate Rodriguez and Ryan Normand, crossing the finish line one-two at the Chandler Cross Country Invitational.
Competing against 44 other teams at this year’s invitational run at Tumbleweed Park on Sept. 3, Corona seniors Liam Kovatch and Slade Sumners crossed the finish line one-two. Kovatch had a recorded time of 16:20, with Sumners on his heels at 16:22.
This Chandler meet, the first one of the season, was unique because the race format was organized so that participants were categorized by grade level and gender. The top three runners from each school were scored to determine the winner in each grade and gender category.
Senior Josh Whitney was the third Aztec to finish, taking sixth place with a time of 17:16. His finish gave Corona a score of only 9 points for a first place finish and subsequent championship trophy.
The next closest was Perry which had 38 points to finish second overall as a senior team.
Other senior runners for the Aztecs in this first meet were Tyler Thompson, Daniel Bish, Anthony Sarno, Scott Carpenter, and Alex Wylde.
Corona’s junior boys placed third overall. Lincoln Johnston was the top junior runner, coming in 11th, while Dylan Waterhouse was 16th.
Joel Wadsworth was the top finisher for Corona’s sophomore runners when he crossed the finish line in fifth place with a personal best time of 17:27. He was followed by Kyle Swindler in seventh. The sophomore team took seventh overall.
The top finisher for the freshman boys team was Cohwin David who came in 25th.
Corona Girls Cross Country — Corona’s girls cross country team returned close to 15 runners from last season, according to coach Ari Rodriguez.
“I am very excited about this season,” said Rodriguez. “We had the biggest turnout ever this summer so I am looking forward to seeing some big improvements before the season is over.”
Rodriguez lists Renee Payne, Mackenzie Burgess, Riley Wright, Cybelle Cozart and Abby Cordiak as his current top five runners, but things could change as the season progresses.
“I’m expecting these five runners, along with former JV runner Isabello Sarno, to lead Corona’s team to a top five finish at state this year,” said Rodriguez. “Isabello (Bella) has made huge improvements since last season.”
At the Chandler Invitational meet, Corona’s top runners, who are mainly sophomores and juniors, had Burgess as the first Corona runner to cross the finish line in the sophomore category; in the junior class, Wright was the first runner to finish for the Aztecs, followed by Cozart. Zoe Hicks was the only senior entered in the senior category.
Corona’s cross country team was due to compete at the Ojo Rojo on Sept. 17 at Chandler’s Tumbleweed Park, then at the Doug Conley Invitational at the Shalimar Country Club in Tempe on Sept. 24.
McClintock Cross Country — The Chargers boys and girls team competed at the Fountain Hills Invitational Sept. 10 at Fountain Hills Park, where the boys team finished 12 out of 27 teams consisting of 199 runners.
Senior Casey Brown was the first McClintock runner to cross the finish line. He was followed, in order of their finish, by Nathaniel Talkalai, Torren Baker, Faruk Mohamed, Louis Vargas, Gage Reitzel and Carter Vierra.
The girls team was led by Mariska Bogaard, followed by Jamee Sandees, Grace Penry and Emilie Berthiaume.
The Chargers’ next meet will be the Doug Conley Invitational held at the Shalimar.
Tempe Cross Country — Tempe’s girls team competed at the Fountain Hills Invitational as well, where the Buffaloes came in 11th out of 18 teams.
Danyella Miranda was the top finisher for Tempe, crossing the finish line in sixth place.
Tempe’s remaining runners, in order of their finish, were Rubi Aguilera, Haile Sechrist-Gauntt, Jasmine Neal, Karely Flores Garcia, Brittany Perez and Brenda Juarez.
Tempe was scheduled to compete in the Mt. Carmel/Movin Shoes Invitational on Sept. 17. The Buffaloes will next compete at the Doug Conley Invitational Sept. 24.
Corona Girls Golf — With six returning golfers, four of them starters last season, coach Pat Reed is excited about her team’s chances at state this season.
The top spot once again belongs to senior Emmer Lower, who had a great summer tournament season, according to Reed.
“Emma played in the Big I tournament in Sacramento representing the state of Arizona,” said Reed. “She shot a 65/71, beating the No. 1 Xavier girl’s score to be the golfer selected.”
Lower has been getting some attention from college recruiters, including Hawaii, Colorado State, Grand Canyon University and a few others, according to Reed.
Lexie Baughman, only a junior this season, is in the No. 2 spot again for Corona, coming back this season with more experience after playing in some summer tournaments.
The No. 3 spot is currently held by freshman Hannah McGraw.
“Hannah came in this season with quite a bit of experience playing in First Tee and Junior Golf,” said Reed. “I expected her to challenge the No.2-5 players from the beginning and she has.”
Currently in the No. 4 spot is senior Mikaela Hatfield.
“Mikaela is returning from her smashed finger incident at Antigua last year,” said Reed. “She ended up needing two surgeries but I’m expecting her to have a good comeback and help us this season.”
Hatfield may be interested in playing for the Naval Academy, according to Reed.
Rounding out the top five golfers for Corona is senior Taylor Gransen.
“Taylor played in a few summer tournaments helping her gain some match experience,” said Reed. “I am looking for Taylor as well as Mikaela, Lexie and Emma to help with the leadership of the younger players on and off the course.”
The team started the season strong, setting a school record in their third outing Aug. 29 in a dual meet against Chandler held at the Ken McDonald Golf Course in Tempe.
“We scored the lowest team score ever in Corona history with a 152,” said Reed. “Emma Lower shot a 35, but when you combined our top four scores that count, it gave us an average of 38 each for our four golfers.”
The previous best team score was a 158 from 2013, according to Reed.
After playing a dual meet against Basha where Corona placed 1-5 over the Bears, with Lower placing first, according to Reed, the Aztecs played in the Antigua National High School Golf Invitational on Sept. 9, where the players gained experience playing against some of the best teams from throughout the country.
Up next, the Aztecs play in the Tempe Girls Invitational on Sept. 17 at Ken McDonald before teeing off in the Tempe City Tournament at Ahwatukee Country Club Sept. 19.
The next scheduled tournament will be the Prescott Girls Golf Invitational help Sept. 30 at Antelope Hills Golf Course.
Corona Boys Golf — Coach Peter Salazar, in his second year as the boys golf coach, has seven returning golfers out of his 13 players but still has a very young team. Only one was part of the top five last season.
“Ten of our 13 players are freshmen and sophomores, while the other three are only juniors,” said Salazar. “We have a lot of talent, but it’s going to take time for these young golfers to develop.”
The top three players on Corona’s roster are Cohlton Kieffer, Zac Erskine and Cooper Odenkirk, according to Salazar.
“These three golfers, Cohlton, Zac and Cooper, I feel are ready to compete for a spot in the state tournament,” said Salazar. “They will also be my leaders this year, especially Cohlton, who leads by example. The younger players look up to him.”
A few of the others players have started to separate themselves from the pack on the practice course and in matches.
“Luke Wynn transferred from Valley Christian and will have to sit out the first seven matches, but after that I think he should be able to contend for one of our top five spots,” said Salazar.
“Two freshmen, Caden Truelick and Max Faeth, I think will have an impact this year as well.”
Davis Cottrell was also named by Salazar as one of the top six golfers at the beginning of the season but he is quick to point out that his team’s biggest strength is in the number of good golfers.
“We have a deeper team than last year,” said Salazar. “I have 10 golfers who could all be part of Corona’s top five, depending on what happens from week to week.”
The next time you can follow the Aztecs at home is a meet Sept. 20 when they will be competing at Ken McDonald Golf Course against Brophy, Hamilton and Queen Creek.
On Sept. 27, Corona will compete against Red Mountain, Gilbert and Perry again at Ken McDonald before meeting up with Highland, Desert Ridge and Basha on Oct. 4 at the Superstition Springs Golf Course.
Corona Football — The Aztecs won their second game and, as of Sept. 16, had a 2-2 record after defeating Cesar Chavez 27-25 at an away game Sept. 9.
The Aztecs started slow allowing the Champions to score a touchdown first but came back strong scoring their own touchdown on a run in by quarterback Austin Helt with over four minutes left in the first quarter.
After the slow start, the Aztecs went on a 21-0 scoring run on three Cameron Brice rushing touchdowns to end up 27-6 with 4:30 left in the game.
The timely interception by the Aztecs’ Trey Bussler helped take away some of the Champions momentum and led to Brice’s third touchdown which was fortunate because the Champions came roaring back in the final four minutes.
Cezar Chaves, who had been held scoreless for over three quarters, managed to score two touchdowns in the final four minutes adding a bit of drama to the Aztec’s second win of the season.
Up next Corona will play at home Sept. 16 against the Perry Pumas who have not lost a game so far this season and sport a 4-0 record. It could be a quite a challenge for the Aztec defense because of Perry’s weapons on offense.
The Pumas have a quarterback that passes the ball, on average, over 350 yards a game and averages over 400 yards a game in offense by himself.
The Pumas also average over 220 yard a game rushing the ball. That’s 100 more yards rushing a game than Corona.
On Sept. 23, the Aztecs will play at Boulder Creek in Anthem. They are off on Sept. 30 because of fall break.
The next game will be Oct. 7 at home against Desert Ridge.