By Jason Wesseldyk
Senior Corey Gorgas knows a thing or two about being part of a championship-caliber team, helping the Saugatuck boys’ cross country squad win state titles three of the past four seasons.
He’ll soon be joining another team with a championship pedigree.
Gorgas has committed to run at Northern Arizona University, which has won the past three NCAA men’s cross country national titles.
“It’s a dream come true to be able to join a team with such success in the past,” Gorgas said. “If I stick to what I’ve done in the past by working hard and betting on myself and my teammates, hopefully we can keep this dynasty going and bring home a few more national titles.”
Gorgas captured his first individual state crown last November when he finished first in the Division 4 race with a time of 15:33, which was 40 seconds better than the runner-up. That effort lifted Saugatuck to the team title.
The three previous seasons saw Gorgas finish fourth in Division 3 in 2017 (15:59), fourth in Division 3 in 2016 (16:02) and 11th in Division 4 in 2015 (16:41). Saugatuck won team championships in 2016 and 2015.
Gorgas also won the 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter runs at the Division 3 track finals last year.
Those accolades—along with his strong work ethic and leadership qualities—made Gorgas a hot commodity when it came to the recruiting process, with many of the nation’s top running institutions expressing interest.
Heading into his senior year, Gorgas had his list of potential suitors narrowed to four: NAU, Michigan, the Air Force Academy and Michigan State University.
“The recruiting process was both fun and exhausting,” said Gorgas, who set up recruiting visits to his finalists on back-to-back-to-back-to-back weekends last September. “It made keeping up with school work and being there for my team very difficult and at first I had a very tough time at first narrowing out any schools. But after months of consideration, I was able to one by one eliminate my choices down to Northern Arizona.”
Culture was one of the key deciding factors for Gorgas.
“Ultimately, nothing could compare to the selflessness of the coaching staff and the relentless work ethic embedded in their team culture,” he said. “There are so many people around you pushing themselves to be the best they can, along with coaches who I have complete trust in.”
Having the opportunity to train at altitude—NAU is located in Flagstaff, which is 6,910 feet above sea level—also appealed to Gorgas.
“The altitude is definitely going to take some time to adjust to, but it’s going to make me a better runner,” he said.
Saugatuck boys’ cross country and track coach Rick Bauer believes Gorgas ended up in the right place.
“It’s tough to put into words how we feel,” Bauer said. “We are thrilled for him and his family. We know it was a difficult decision. It isn’t an easy thing to decide to go across the country to start the next chapter in one’s life. But after watching Corey go through this recruitment process, I believe that he made the best choice for him.
“Corey is an extremely mature and focused young man. He talked to coaches and set up his visits on his own. He negotiated his scholarships with coaches going back several times to improve his situation. I have never met a high school kid that would do that. Simply by knowing his value and betting on himself, he substantially improved his position.”
And while he couldn’t be happier for how things turned out for Gorgas, Bauer knows it won’t be easy to say good-bye.
“As happy as we are for him, we are extremely sad to see him go,” Bauer said. “His talent is obvious, but it’s the things he does off the track or race course that are going to be missed. He was the heart and soul of this year’s team. He’s an outstanding leader with a tremendous ability to motivate and instill confidence in his teammates. He keeps things light but focused.
“His parents should be proud as they did an amazing job raising an exceptional human being.”
Speaking of his parents, Gorgas knows he didn’t get to where he is with some help.
“I can’t thank my parents, coached and teammates enough for their relentless support in helping me get here,” he said.