Merilyn Li of Corona del Sol High brought home the runner-up trophy in singles and the Aztecs, seeded seventh, advanced to the Division I state badminton tournament, showing tremendous improvement over the previous season.
In singles, second-seeded Li easily worked through the bracket.
“Merilyn is such a huge asset to the Corona badminton program,” coach Katie Pick said. “She is so hard working, both on and off the court, and is enthusiastic about the game. Her training doesn’t just end at school but she plays outside in the community.”
Li faced No. 3 Samiya Bodhankar of Hamilton in the finals.
“Merilyn has been the No.1 player for Corona for the past two years, and I see that continuing into next season,” Pick said. “She lost one match in the regular season, against Hamilton’s No.1 player, who she faced again in the finals.”
Li won the first set, 19-21, before Bodhankar came back to win the next two sets, 21-13 and 21-8, and the state championship.
Li, however, gained statewide recognition as a junior, according to Pick.
“Merilyn was recognized by coaches and others when named to the all-tournament team in the Flying Feathers Tournament, when selected as Corona del Sol athlete of the week, when chosen as section player of the year and when designated as our team’s most valuable player,” Pick said.
Corona’s doubles pair, seniors Megan Kirchhardt and Kayla McDonald, reached the second round before losing to Chaparral.
“Megan and Kayla, team captains, were always players I could count on and who were looked upon by the other girls on the team as role models,” said Pick. “They both played, for the past three years, badminton and basketball at Corona, so had developed a good relationship and jived well together.
“They were both forces to be reckoned with, both enthusiastic for the game and aggressive. They really found their groove towards the end of the season with the hopes of carrying that momentum into the state playoffs. We are really going to miss their leadership, competitiveness, and positive attitudes next year.”
In the quarterfinals, Corona fell to No. 1 seed Perry.
“I was OK being the No. 7 seed because it just shows the growth that we made over the past year after being ranked No.16.”
Pick is proud of her team’s accomplishments this year.
“I cannot say enough about the players who represented Corona’s badminton team this year. They were hardworking, both on the court and in the classroom, as many of them were taking Honors and AP classes,” said Pick. “They built a comradery with each other, that was visible on the court during practice and in competition.”
Corona boys cross country
Corona’s boys team placed 10th in the state meet among 19 teams.
Junior Tyler Tisinger has been Corona’s leading cross-country runner all season season, starting with his 16th place in 17 minutes in the 5,000 meters junior race at the Chandler Invitational on Sept. 4. In his final race, the AIA Division I Cross Country Championships on Nov. 13 at Cave Creek Golf Course, he placed 16th in 16:48.8.
Tisinger’s personal best was 15:57.6 on Sept. 24 at the Desert Twilight XC Festival, good for fourth place.
Tisinger finished fourth at the Division I Southeast AIA Sectional on Nov. 3, helping Corona take fifth among 14 schools.
Senior Callum Rohrer also improved during the season, finishing the Chandler Invitational in 54th in 18:49.31. He improved in the Casteel Invitational to a personal best of 17:11.1.
Other runners who helped the Aztecs place in the top five at several big meets were seniors Diego Diaz and Gian Martinez-Richards and juniors Gabriel Gonzales and Diego Frausto.
In the AIA Division I Cross Country Championship, Diaz was the second Corona runner to finish, 51st in 17:56.0. His personal best of the season was 17:19.2 at Desert Twilight.
Gonzales was the third Aztecs runner at state in 18:20.3 for 68th place. His personal best was 17:45.7 at the Casteel Invitational.
Martinez-Richards was Corona’s fifth runner at the state championship in 18:43.6. His personal best of the season was 17:57.9 at Desert Twilight.
Several Corona runners participated in the NXR Southwest Regional Championships at Shalimar Country Club in Tempe on Nov. 20.
In the Men’s 5,000 Meters Open – Large School, Rohrer was Corona’s top runner finishing 66th. The next Corona runner was Diaz in 78th place, followed by Davies-Boerner in 104th, freshman Henry Yazzie in 122nd, sophomore Sean Waters in 130th, sophomore Stephen Brown in 143rd, sophomore Zachary Wiesner in 148th, junior Logan Sywak in 159th, freshman Aidan Strong in 164th and sophomore Valin Verma in 166th place.
Corona girls cross country
Corona, with a group of young runners on the girls team, placed 10th among 17 teams at state. Three of the top six were sophomores and one a freshman.
Sophomore Paige Davies-Boerner was Corona’s top runner at state, finishing 21st in 20 minutes, 36.4 seconds. Her personal best was 19:38.9 at the Desert Twilight XC Festival on Sept 24. In her final race of the season, the NXR Southwest Regional Championships, she took 28th on Nov. 20.
Junior Kimberly Musgrave was the second Corona runner in the state meet, crossing the line in 40th in 21:14.5. Her personal best of 21:14.5 came at the Casteel Invitational on Oct. 15.
Sophomore Mia Brannon was the third Corona runner, finishing 69th at state in 22:29.5. Her personal best was 21:25.8 at the Casteel Invitational.
Corona’s fourth runner, freshman Sloan Guess, finished 70th in 22:33.1. Her personal best was 20:14.6 at Desert Twilight.
Senior Ashlinn Aguayo was Corona’s No. 5 runner and sophomore Maria Gonzales was Corona’s No. 6 at the state championships.
Marcos de Niza cross country
Junior Luke Sieveking placed 47th place in 18:05.5 at the AIA Division III Cross Country Championship on Nov. 13 at Cave Creek Golf Course.
He ran his best time of the season, 17:32.44 at Desert Twilight on Sept. 24. On Oct. 16 he won the 3rd Annual Cesar Chavez Classic Men’s 5,000 meters varsity race.