Corey Gorgas is headed to New Balance Nationals this weekend to finish his junior year of track in the Emerging Elite Mile and 2 Mile on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Though he may be in a smaller division, Corey has had three years of elite level success under Coach Rick Bauer's training at Saugatuck Public Schools in West Michigan.
He recently picked up two individual state titles at the MHSAA State Championships on June 2nd at Comstock Park. With only 90 minutes between each race, he became a two time state champion in the 1600m and 3200m run, leading his team to a 4th place finish. Like any competitive runner, Corey is driven to prove that, come race day, rankings means nothing: "The day of state finals my coach and I agreed that we were going to go for state titles in the 1600m and the 3200m. I was definitely super nervous going into it knowing that I wasn't the top seed for either events. I had the top regional times for both, but I was ranked 3rd based off of season PR's. I knew I'd have to execute my plan, not be too eager, or fall asleep if I wanted to pull it off."
Corey is certainly not a one and done champion, he was part of a 2015 cross country state championship team, placing 11th overall as a freshman. Over the next 2 years, he went on to place 4th during his sophomore year at cross country state finals and 4th again his junior year. He was part of the 2016 state championship team in track as well. Six months later, Saugatuck captured a cross country state title, the same year they moved up to Division III. They're well known for being the underdogs in the rankings, but come championship season, they deliver: "It was really cool to end up 4th as a team. That was something that I think a lot of people didn't see coming and it was great to have a strong finish to make up for some of the things that happened last year."
In 2017, Saugatuck faced major adversity with losing Blake Dunn, one of their most versatile and successful athletes to a sudden injury. What should have been a podium team ended up 21st. For 365 days, redemption was on everyone's minds, including Coach Bauer's: "Last year was a strange year. We lost our heart and soul in a freak accident. Blake Dunn tore his ACL practicing long jump. He was a shoe-in to win the 110m hurdles and 300m hurdles, and likely score high in long jump and the open 200m. The loss of Blake hurt. Many of the guys lost focus from that point forward."
This year, the mentality changed. Saugatuck knew that with the athletes they had, a state championship was not likely in the cards, but they knew they weren't going to finish 21st again.
"This year, we went in knowing that we were likely a year away from competing for a state title. We tried to save Corey as much as we could, and due to our depth in distance, we didn't need to race Corey much. He only raced four times before state."
In the postseason, he has made several appearances at New Balance Nationals, this will be his 3rd time at the outdoor competition. He plans to take advantage of the heightened competition and hopefully claim some personal records: "I'm just going to try to race how I know I can. For the mile, I'll try to run similar splits as I did at state finals, but it will be with a much more competitive field. Hopefully I can pull off a few seconds PR. For the 2 mile, I'm just gonna hang on to that front pack and try to set myself up for a fast finish with 400 to go."
Patience is certainly in order this summer as Corey plans to take some time off before building up for his final year of high school cross country. He is no rookie when it comes to how much dedication and relentless work ethic this sport requires of him, as Coach Bauer is quick to acknowledge of his successful athlete: "Corey is special and has a unique quality that many high school kids just don't have. He hates to lose. I know lots of people say that but he hates it so much he will do anything not to lose. He decided to elliptical to supplement his running. He would average 10 hours a week between running and the elliptical. After meets, he would spend 45 minutes to an hour up in the weight room. He expects to be at meets like New Balance Nationals. We trained through state finals because that was the bigger goal for him."
Corey will be racing at 12pm EST on Friday and 4:40pm on Saturday. You can catch a live broadcast of his races this weekend on NBNationals.com.