A lot has changed for siblings Johan and Geraldin Correa in the past couple of years.
In early 2014, they and their family — younger sister Sara and older brother Jhonny, and parents Sulay and Gustavo — came to the Tri-Cities from Colombia.
It was a hard life in their native country, Johan said. There was little opportunity to be had at home. But things are better for the Correas here.
Johan and Geraldin have settled in at Kennewick High School, where they have become something of an athletic phenomenon.
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Saturday at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco, Johan and Geraldin will be Kennewick High’s first state cross country competitors since Teona Perkins in 2002.
Johan, a sophomore, is the first Kennewick boys state cross country runner since Tim Brown in 1997.
As a freshman, Johan competed in the 800 meters at the Class 3A state track and field meet in Tacoma.
“In my country, I get bullied and stuff, but when I get here, and then the people know about me and they start knowing me, they like me,” Johan said. “When I get here in high school, yeah, I was afraid, but when they know about me and my cross country and track, then everyone starts talking about me, and that makes me feel good.”
This year, Johan set the Kennewick High boys records for 3 miles (15 minutes, 10.8 seconds) and 5,000 meters (15:47.0).
Geraldin, a freshman, has the 3-mile girls school record (18:46.4). In the 5,000, she’s fourth all time (19:41.0) and looking to break Rachel Ross’ 19-year-old record of 19:06.0.
The Correas think their quickness comes from their parents.
“They were fast too when they were young,” Johan said. “And they didn’t realize we were fast too because we never ran in our country until we got here, and then they realized that we were fast.”
Finding their path
Both kids started running in middle school. Geraldin’s speed was discovered during P.E. class.
“My coach says I run pretty fast so I should do cross country, and I did,” Geraldin said.
Kennewick coaches Bradyn Leyde and Katie Tate have been awed by the Correas’ journey, and Johan’s rise in particular.
“He has a lot of self-determination,” Tate said. “If I give them the workout and I try to make it easier at the end because they look like they’re dying, ‘No, you said, coach, we have to do it all.’ He just pushes.”
In Johan’s freshman season at Kennewick High, Tate said, there was a language barrier that made it hard to coach, but his skills were obvious. Johan advanced to the 3A regional meet in Spokane, where he finished 20th.
Running with the Tri City Thunder Track and Field Club helped Johan tap much deeper into his potential. Last November, he qualified for the USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships with a ninth-place finish at regionals.
At last summer’s USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships in Sacramento, he finished seventh in the 15-16 boys 800 and attained All-America status.
“I think a lightbulb did come on for him in the fact of what running could do for him,” Leyde said.
When Johan has free time — especially on Sundays, when the Lions don’t practice — he’ll go online and ask if anyone wants to go for a run with him.
The motivation is simple.
“I just want to beat the people who beat me last year and improve for myself,” he said.
Johan has finished no worse than fifth this cross country season. He won the Division II boys race at the Max Jensen Richland Invitational on Oct. 8.
“I was so proud of myself,” Johan said. “And I did push myself.”
For Geraldin, the encouragement she and Johan get from their teammates and coaches has been nice.
“They appreciate what you do at school, and they help you in your life,” Geraldin said. “You can talk about what is going on in your life, and they help you in your sports.”
Geraldin finished 39th in last week’s Class 3A tri-district meet in Seattle to earn a state berth. As much as Geraldin has accomplished in her first year of high school, Tate said she expects to see “a whole new person next year,” similar to what happened with Johan between his freshman and sophomore seasons.
“I think Geraldin’s pushing herself a little bit more, but Johan’s here, so it makes it easier; she’s got someone to copycat,” Tate said. “The girls are kind of fast in our state, especially Jordan Oakes (the defending 3A state champion from Holy Names Academy), but there’s about four seniors that will be gone next year, so she’s got better chances as long as she sticks with it and keeps working hard.”
Light of the Lions
The Correas’ achievements appear to signal a bright future for Kennewick cross country.
The program has grown from 15 boys and girls total to averaging 45 the past two years. Geraldin and fellow freshman Paige Raebel both blew past the 3-mile girls school record of 20:53.1 set last year by Bianca Chavez, while another ninth-grader, Essence Estrada, is fourth on the all-time list.
Eventually, another Correa could enter the Kennewick record books. Johan and Geraldin’s 13-year-old sister, Sara, has been a standout runner at Park Middle School.
“They’re helping us establish a culture,” Leyde said.
The Correas also have learned to set big goals for themselves.
“I want to be in the top eight — or top five, if I can,” Johan said of his hopes for state.
Geraldin wants to set more records at Kennewick High.
For a brother and sister who once didn’t know they could run, the possibilities are limitless.
State cross country primer
Race times Saturday at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco: Wheelchair, 9:30 a.m.; 1B/2B girls, 10 a.m.; 1A girls, 10:30 a.m.; 2A girls, 11 a.m.; 1B/2B boys, 11:30 a.m.; 1A boys, noon; 3A girls, 12:30 p.m.; 4A girls, 1 p.m.; 2A boys, 1:30 p.m.; 3A boys, 2 p.m.; 4A boys, 2:30 p.m. Tickets: $10 adults, $8 students/seniors, kids under 5 free.
2015 champions: 4A boys: Tahoma, Jack Yearian (Bellarmine Prep, graduated); 4A girls: Camas, Taylor Roe (Kamiak, now competes for Lake Stevens); 3A boys: North Central, Justin Janke (North Central, graduated); 3A girls: Glacier Peak (now in 4A), Jordan Oakes (Holy Names Academy); 2A boys: Sehome, Dylan Holland (Anacortes, graduated); 2A girls: Liberty-Issaquah, Brittany Aquino (East Valley-Spokane, graduated); 1A boys: Deer Park, Tibebu Proctor (Northwest); 1A girls: Northwest, Alexis Redfield (Zillah, graduated); 1B/2B boys: Northwest Christian-Lacey, Kenneth Rooks (College Place, now in 1A); 1B/2B girls: Ocosta (did not advance a team this year), Madison Ward (St. George’s).
Local competitors: 4A boys: Riley Moore (Richland), Anthony Stone (Richland), Caleb Olson (Hanford), Alex Iben (Walla Walla); 4A girls: Katie Andrus (Richland), Kendra Keller (Hanford), Erika Leinweber (Walla Walla), Dallas Borrego (Sunnyside); 3A boys: Kamiakin team (Jonah Franco, Ryan Child, Kyler Lee, Porter Grigg, Traven Bills, Andrew Holladay, Preston Glade, Levi Orren, Cameron Gutierrez), Johan Correa (Kennewick), Keanu Daos (Southridge), Antonio Garcilazo (Southridge); 3A girls: Mirannda Shulman (Kamiakin), Brooke Moon (Kamiakin), Geraldin Correa (Kennewick); 2A boys: Adrian Benitez (Grandview), Christopher Lane (Prosser); 2A girls: Nati VerMulm (Prosser), Justice Newhouse (Prosser); 1A boys: Royal team (Silver Beltran, Rodolfo Flores, Victor Santillan, Alex Ramirez, Eduardo Rodriguez, Arturo Villa, Alfredo Orozco, Victor Garcia, Jose Morales), Connell team (Nolan Chase, Elijah Miller, Gerardo Morales, Haiden Holst, Maeson Holst, Peyton Berg, Matthew Kelly, Ryan Fox, Nathan Kelly), Kenneth Rooks (College Place), Bakari Bakari (College Place), Yerik Arellano (Wahluke), Tanu Buck (Wahluke), Francisco Espindola (Wahluke); 1A girls: Royal team (Gracelynn Miller, Kay Lester, Abigail Delay, Ana Villafana, Elizabeth Guardarrama, Caitlin Diaz, Amanda Justo-Victoriano, Jennifer Quebrado, Emma Wilhelm), Wahluke team (Jessica Arellano, Claudia Olivares, Alma Velasco, Brisa Mendoza, Lluviana Mendoza, Jennifer Navarrete, Stephanie Valdespino, Maria Sanchez), Melia Loe (College Place), Montana Rowlette (Kiona-Benton), Rachel Estes (Kiona-Benton), Liz Edler (Connell); 1B/2B boys: Tri-Cities Prep team (Evan Sweeney, Thomas Mercer, Jacoby Wieber, Scott Jacobs, Trevor Middleton, Tony Vanhoudt, Colin Sweeney, Joshua Rodriguez, Michael Sun), Daniel Ness (DeSales), Maxwell Vandersloot (DeSales), Nathan Talbot (Liberty Christian), Landon Callas (Waitsburg), Skylar Wood (Waitsburg); 1B/2B girls: Emily Adams (Waitsburg).
Odds and ends: Everyone in last year’s Class 4A boys top 10 has graduated except for Lewis & Clark’s Zak Kindl (fourth) and Richland’s Riley Moore (10th). ... Last year’s 3A girls team winner, Glacier Peak, has moved up to 4A. Look for the Grizzlies to challenge two-time defending 4A champion Camas. Meanwhile, defending 4A individual champion Taylor Roe transferred last winter from Kamiak to Lake Stevens. ... The North Central boys (3A) will go for their 11th state title in a row. Kamiakin will try to break a streak of four consecutive runner-up finishes to the Indians. Individually, James Konugres of Ballard, Hayden Dressel of Mt. Spokane and James Mwaura of Lincoln are the only returners from last year’s top 15. ... College Place’s Kenneth Rooks, who won the 1B/2B boys state title last fall, will be in the 1A field this year. Rooks, the SCAC district champion, will go up against last year’s 1A state winner, Tibebu Proctor of Northwest. Rooks ran a winning time of 15 minutes, 44.6 seconds last year on the 5,000-meter Sun Willows course, while Proctor finished in 15:32.1.