Thea Johnson broke her own school record at the Falcon Invitational to lead a group of five Saugatuck runners with times less than 20:00. (Photo by Scott Sullivan)

Gorgas, Johnson post record-setting times in Allendale

By: 
Jason Wesseldyk

There’s a new name atop the record book for the Saugatuck boys’ cross country program.
Nearly a decade after Christian Birky set the school record with his time of 15:29 at the Division 4 state finals in 2008, junior Corey Gorgas surpassed the mark with his first-place time of 15:20 at the Allegan Falcon Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 30.
Given that accomplishment, Gorgas should have been ecstatic, right?
Well, the fact that the Indians finished second behind Fremont—ranked 10th in Division 2—by a 31-69 margin in the Falcons Division put a bit of a damper on things for him.
“Corey was not happy with his race,” Saugatuck boys’ coach Rick Bauer said. “He is more concerned with winning then with running fast. He was a little hard on himself after the race. That’s what makes him so good. He is never satisfied. 
“I think he has done an amazing job this year. He has really taken his training to another level. He is still training at a high volume, which makes his time that much more impressive to me.”
The Saugatuck girls finished with 73 points to finish third behind a pair of Division 3 powers. Winner Hart (19 points) is ranked first, while runner-up Benzie Central (72 points) is ranked fifth.
Freshman Nik Pettinga joined Gorgas in the top five with his fifth-place showing of 15:59, while senior Keegan Seifert was close behind in seventh at 16:26.
“Nik has far exceeded my expectations for the year,” Bauer said. “He is a driven kid and he thrives on people doubting him. Being the youngest of three brothers that all ran for me, he was told by his older brothers he would never be as good as them. He even had a coach tell him he would never be as good as his brother and Corey. That kind of stuff only fuels his fire
“Keegan is really coming through this season. He has added a few tools to his racing toolkit and it is paying off. He is also running at a high volume right now and I am extremely excited to see where he is when we drop his miles a bit and give him his legs back.”
Seniors Armand Carrion (27th at 17:06) and Corbin Blink (31st at 17:15) rounded out the scoring runners for Saugatuck.
“The team is really starting to come together,” Bauer said. “Armand was a big difference maker for us. He is a dual sport athlete and he hurt himself a few weeks ago in a soccer game but is getting back to being healthy. If he can avoid the injury bug and continue to train he could really help us at state finals. 
“Corbin had a great race and is getting better each week. I think the best is still to come.”
And while the state finals were still more than a month away, Bauer was already thinking ahead.
“I like the way the entire team is trending right now,” he said. “If we can stay healthy we will be a tough team to beat come November 4. The thing about cross country is there is no defense and we cannot control what others do. We will continue to focus on getting better and hope that we improve more than other teams.”
Thea Johnson led the Saugatuck girls with a runner-up showing that saw her better her own school record with a time of 18:16.
“Thea is reaping the rewards of a lot of hard work these last few years,” Saugatuck girls’ coach Angelina Bauer said .”She has done everything we have asked of her and then some. I cannot think of a more deserving record-holder.  She has smashed the school record a few times now, and we have only seen the tip of the iceberg.  She is an excellent student, an exceptional human being, and a heck of an athlete.”
Not that Johnson was the lone member of her team to shine.
In fact, all five of Saugatuck’s scoring runners finished in less than 20 minutes, marking the first time that has happened in school history.
“I knew we very realistically could have at least five girls under 20:00, but to have five under 20:00 in the same race—two of them under 19:00—and have two more right on the verge is like a dream,” Angelina Bauer said.
Taylor Conner joined Johnson in the top 10, placing 10th at 18:48. Natalie Martinson (16th at 19:21), Lily Francis (20th at 19:39) and Jillian Vera (25th at 19:55) followed.
“It was an amazing day,” Angelina Bauer said. “This is the best team by far I have ever coached. What is so remarkable about them is that we lost a wonderful runner at the beginning of the season who had been our No. 1 for two-and-a-half years, so they knew they had some major stepping up to do. They are constantly reminding each other what it is going to take to fill in those spaces and they have so far made up for the difference and then some.”
 

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