By Alex Zener
Corona’s cross-country teams are happy to be able to compete normally once again after dealing with the COVID restrictions, especially the seniors who have just this one season left in their high school career.
This season is also a big one for head coach Patrick “Tac” Smith who will have been Corona’s boys cross-country head coach for 25 years. Over the years he has had an impact on hundreds of student athletes.
There are eight senior athletes on the boys team and two seniors on the girls team who are part of Corona’s cross-country team that competed every weekend in September.
Senior Gabriel Gonzales was the top finisher for the Aztecs in three of those four races. His best time of 16:27 was at the Oja Rojo Invitational held Sept. 17 at his favorite place to compete, Tumbleweed Park.
“Gabe, in only his second year running cross country, has become one of our top runners,” said Smith. “He is an extremely hard worker, following the mantra of business before pleasure. He is a potential state medalist and is also a varsity wrestler at Corona.”
Gonzales hopes to continue running for a community college after graduation.
Senior Tyler Tisinger, who has been running for Corona since he was a freshman, can usually be found running neck and neck with Gonzales at some point in a race and sometimes finishes either right in front of Gonzales or right behind him.
For instance, Tisinger finished ahead of Gonzales to take 10th place at the Fountain Hills Invitational held Sept. 10 at Fountain Hills Park with a time of 16:38.15, his fastest time in September.
“Tyler is one of the top runners in the state,” said Smith. “He was a state medalist last year, took fourth place in the state track meet in the 800 his junior year and was fourth in the 1600 his sophomore year.”
“He’s a super student who will go to college for running and academics.”
Grant Murad has consistently been the third or fourth runner to cross the finish line for Corona this season. He was the third runner at the Chandler Invitational held Sept. 3 at Tumbleweed Park, taking 66th place out of 164 racers with a time of 18:59.6 early in the season.
Murad was also the third Corona runner at the Desert Twilight XC Festival help Sept. 30 at Coyote Run Golf Course with an improved time of 17:37.9.
“Grant is a four-year runner for Corona with three varsity letters. He unfortunately spent last year injured, but is now healthy and making a big comeback,” said Smith. “We are looking for big things for him by the end of the year.”
Senior Andrew Davis-Boerner is another one of Corona’s top runner consistently finishing as the third for fourth runner from Corona.
For instance, Davis-Boerner, was the fourth runner taking 73rd place out of 164 racers at the Chandler Invitational and was second at the Oja Rojo Invitational taking 66th place out of 294 runner on Sept. 17 with a time of 17:31.4.
“Andrew is another one of our athletes who has run cross-country all four years despite also being one of Corona’s best soccer players. He is becoming an outstanding runner who has shown huge improvement this year,” said Smith. “
Ben Brower has been part of Corona’s cross-country team for three years. His best time this season was 20:32 at the Chandler Invitational.
“Ben has improved tremendously this year after missing a year due to COVID,” said Smith. “He is also an outstanding member of the Corona Choir.”
Logan Sywak has run cross country for the Aztecs all four years. His best time was 21:31.6 at the Chandler Invitational, while senior Adam Soussi has been running cross country for Corona for three years.
“Logan is another one of our runners who has vastly improved this year, and Adam has also shown big improvement as well,” said Smith. “Logan is the best pacer on the team and Adam is our big kicker in races.”
Diego Frausto is another one of Corona’s seniors who has been running on the cross-country team all four years of his high school career.
Brian Crane, in his sixth year as Corona’s girls head coach, has two seniors on his cross-country team this fall, Taylor McClane and Kelsey Gunning.
This year is McClane’s first on Corona’s cross-country team but she did compete at her old school before transferring to Corona.
“We are lucky to have Taylor,” said Crane. “Taylor is a hard worker who is involved in many activities other than cross-country, including R.O.T.C, which she plans to continue when she studies business at ASU next year.”
“Taylor is our seventh runner on varsity, plus she also plans on running track and field this spring.”
Gunning runs both cross-country and track for Corona.
“Kelsey took last season off but is now back running XC for her third season at Corona,” said Crane. “I am so happy to have Kelsey back. She is a natural leader who I can count on to finish workouts strong and motivate the younger athletes. Last track season, Kelsey made state in the 300m hurdles.”
The Aztecs have one more meet, the Titan Invitational coming Oct. 13 to Crossroads Park, before the sectionals and state tournament which starts Nov. 2.
The Southeast Section is to be held at Crossroads, with the Girls Division 1 Southeast starting at 10:45 a.m. and Boys Division I Southeast at 11:15 a.m.
The Division I Cross Country State Championships will be Nov. 12 at Cave Creek Golf Course.
The Aztecs’ last event will be the NXR Southwest Regional Championships on Nov. 19, scheduled to be held at Coyote Run Golf Course at Leisure World.