Gorgas places ninth at Nationals, named All-American
By Jason Wesseldyk
PORTLAND, Ore.—On the eve of the Nike Cross County Nationals, Saugatuck boys’ cross country coach Rick Bauer has some concerns about how his star pupil would perform in the race.
“To be honest, I thought he might have a bad day,” Bauer said of senior Corey Gorgas, who earned a place at Nationals thanks to his third-place finish in Midwest Regionals on Sunday, Nov. 11. “He was so excited the day before when I saw him at the Nike Campus. He seemed so hyper and was among all these kids he has followed and looked up to. And then there were all these professional athletes he was rubbing elbows with.
“The entire Nike Cross Country Nationals experience is a bit overwhelming. They really do it up for the kids and I could easily see how kids would lose their focus.”
But in the minutes leading up to the start of the race, any concerns Bauer had disappeared.
“When I wished him good luck before the race, he looked me in the eye and said, ‘I am feeling good,’ as he slapped himself in the thigh,” Bauer said. “It gave me chills because of the look he had on his face and the confidence in his voice. That’s when I had a feeling he was going to run well.”
And run well he did, turning in a personal-best time of 15:10.7 at the Saturday, Dec. 1, event to place ninth in the field of 203 competitors and earn All-American honors.
“I’m so happy for Corey and his family,” Bauer said.
Becoming an All-American was the fulfillment of a goal that was nearly three years in the making.
“When it came to this race, Corey did the most Corey thing to do: he planned it in the spring of his freshmen year,” Bauer said. “He did everything he had to do to get there. He took setbacks in stride and never lost focus of his goals.”
It’s that kind of focus and dedication that has been the foundation of Gorgas’ many successes in the sport.
“Corey is a special athlete and not solely because of his natural ability, of which he has a ton,” Bauer said. “Rather, it’s due to his confidence in himself and his willingness to do whatever it takes.
“With his natural gifts it would be easy to skip the small stuff,” Bauer said. “But Corey made sure to do all the small stuff. His commitment to his craft and dedication to his training are what set him apart from other athletes. I have had athletes as talented as Corey, but not as focused as him.”
A top-10 showing for Gorgas was far from a certainty in the early stages of the race, as Gorgas was 34th at the mile mark with a time of 4:45. He moved up seven spots to 27th at the two-mile mark with a time of 9:51.4.
But with a kilometer to go, he had made his way up to 18th and was 10th heading into the final 400 meters.
“He kind of went back to a style of racing that he used a lot as a freshmen and sophomore,” Bauer said. “He was back a bit in the pack and just kept moving his way up.”
The race also saw Gorgas—who won the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 4 championship on Saturday, Nov. 3—beat Division 1 champ Nick Foster from Ann Arbor Pioneer, who was 13th at 15:15.7.
Earlier this season, the pair squared off at the Spartan Invitational in East Lansing, with Foster winning the race and Gorgas finishing second.
“(Gorgas’ performance at Nationals) is bigger than he knows,” Bauer said. “He has opened a door for other Saugatuck athletes as he showed them what is possible. Sometimes all it takes is seeing someone do it and then the floodgates are opened. He is a trailblazer for our program and really for all kids from small schools.
“Don’t let the size of your school determine the size of your dreams.”