Gorgas wins Pan Am U-20 race, Comerford places ninth
Saugatuck cross country and track coach Rick Bauer felt a combination of emotions as he watched former star pupil Corey Gorgas compete in the Pan American Cross Country Cup late last month.
“It was like old times,” said Bauer, who watched Gorgas win two cross country and two track state championships during his prep career. “I was nervous and excited for him. I had moments of doubt, even though I should know by now that I should never doubt Corey.”
No, he shouldn’t.
Gorgas finished the 8K race at Victoria, British Columbia’s Bear Mountain in Langford with a time of 27:15 to claim the U-20 championship by five seconds over Team USA teammate Evan Bishop.
“This is an amazing experience,” said Gorgas, a freshman at Northern Arizona University. “It’s one of the favorite weekends of my life. It’s really just an honor to represent Team USA. I couldn’t be happier to come out and do it in Victoria, Canada, and have a great time representing my country.
“This is what I’ve been aiming for for a long time, so I’m honored to get it done.”
Otsego High School graduate and current Syracuse University runner Alex Comerford also competed in the race, earning a top-10 showing by finishing ninth at 27:54.
Gorgas, Comerford and Bishop—a senior at East Grand Rapids High School—have competed against each other since their middle school days.
“It’s wild to think that those three having raced since middle school and for a time Corey was not the best of that group,” Bauer said. “It’s amazing how well these three have gotten to know each other and how well their families know each other. It has to be calming for all parties when you have some familiar faces around.”
Not that Gorgas seemed to need much of a calming influence.
With the course consisting of a four loops that included a substantial hill, Gorgas ran with the lead pack from the start before making his move on the last loop and pulling away.
“I knew we’d be going around this thing four times, so I just tried to play it smart,” Gorgas said. “Each time I approached the hill, I knew it was going to hurt a lot right after, but it’s just like our home course at Buffalo Park. There’s a giant hill there, too.
“You just have to know that for the next 400 (meters) your body’s going to hurt quite a bit. You’ve got to not buy into that pain and let your body just try to work through it and get back into it.”
Bauer thought Gorgas did a great job sticking to his game plan.
“He showed a lot of maturity,” Bauer said. “I’m sure he could have run away from the field, but that might have blown up in his face. He did what he had to win. You could see a lot of the other runners in the race were not so patient and it cost them. He was leading or in the lead pack the entire time. A few different runners took the lead and made bold moves and it cost them later on.
“When he started looking back, I knew he had the race won. I was and am extremely proud and overjoyed for him. He has found his people at NAU and it is quite clear he is flourishing.”
Gorgas plans to continue with international competitions, with a goal of being one of the top two juniors at the U.S. Junior Championships. That would qualify him for the World Championships in Kenya this summer.
Bauer, for one, doesn’t doubt Gorgas will do just that.
“I think the sky’s the limit for him,” Bauer said. “I understand he is taking up the steeple, something I believe he is built for. I don’t think this is the last time we see him with a USA jersey on. If he stays healthy and hungry, he has a long career of college and pro running ahead of him.”