Last year, Ty Cronenwett heard through the grapevine that there were a couple of good distance runners coming up from Park Middle School.
Little did the Kennewick High School boys track coach know that one of those kids would bring excitement back to the Lions’ track team.
Freshman Johan Correa burst onto the scene during cross country, and girls coach Katie Schwisow let Cronenwett know there was a special kid coming his way.
“He came to the (track) lunch meeting, and I noticed him standing in the back of the room,” Cronenwett said. “I didn’t even know what he could do. He is having a big impact on our school. Our principal (Ron King) came out to practice one day to watch him run.”
Correa and his family came to the Tri-Cities two years ago from Cali, Colombia. Before arriving in the United States, he did not participate in sports, but it didn’t take long for him to fit right in.
Correa’s specialty is the 800 meters, though he also competes in the 400, 1,600 and 3,200, and runs the third leg on the Lions’ 4x400 relay team.
“This is really new to me,” Correa said, with senior sprinter Chase Silguero helping to interpret. “Both the 800 and 1,600 are my favorites. I didn’t know I was this fast.”
Correa will be on the track Thursday, when the Lions host Southridge and Richland in a Mid-Columbia Conference meet starting at 3:30 p.m.
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According to school records that Cronenwett has found, Correa has the fastest 800 time (1 minute, 59.31 seconds) by a freshman at Kennewick High since George Fraga ran a 1:59.8 in 1976. But his fast times go way beyond the Mid-Columbia.
Correa, 15, is tied for the 14th-best time in the nation for a freshman in the 800. He ran his 1:59.31 at the Prosser Rotary Invite on Saturday.
He is the top-ranked freshman 400 (52.35) and 800 runner in Washington. He also ranks third in the 3A MCC in the 800 behind Kamiakin junior Braxton Gutierrez (1:56.30) and Hanford senior Porter McMichael (1:59.27).
At the Pasco Invite, he finished 18th overall with a time of 2:00.35, but he won his flight.
“That was scary,” Correa said of running at the Pasco Invite. “I thought everyone would beat me. Once the race started, I settled down. It was fun to run against that level of competition.”
Said Cronenwett: “The biggest thing about Johan, if there is someone in front of him, he wants to catch them. He doesn’t want to come in second.”
That is evident by his times.
His first 800-meter race this season was clocked in 2:15.45. He cut eight seconds off his time two weeks later, then seven more seconds at the Pasco Invite. Then came his sub-2-minute time in Prosser.
“Freshman boys don’t usually compete at a high level like this,” Kennewick distance coach Shaun Suss said. “They haven’t developed yet. But Johan is as good as I’ve seen since Anthony Armstrong (a 2012 Kamiakin graduate who is at Oklahoma State). He impresses me every time he runs. Johan, Ryan Child (Kamiakin) and Riley Moore (Richland) are talented. They push each other, and that makes them all better.”