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Les WillseyStaff Writer, AIA365.com email@example.com
Corona del Sol runner Nate Rodriguez always eager to runSep 21, 2012
Corona del Sol's Nathan Rodriguez played a lot of basketball through his freshman year in high school. He also enjoyed running, although not as much as basketball. One thing he looked forward to the most at basketball practices was conditioning at workouts.
"I'd always get excited about running suicides," Rodriguez said. "I liked to get out quick and go as fast as possible."
Not many share Rodriguez's enthusiasm for that age-old basketball drill, but running has become Rodriguez's passion since late in his freshman year. It was in his DNA since his father, Ari, was a standout distance runner in high school at Corona del Sol two decades ago and in college (ASU).
Nathan Rodriguez's passion for running shows in his accomplishments, both in cross country and track. What's more promising is half his high school career is still ahead.
Most of his cross country successes have come early in the season -- from his freshman year at Williams Field High to now at Corona. He has won his grade-level race each year (freshman, sophomore and junior) at the annual Chandler Invitational at Tumbleweed Park. Two weeks ago he recorded the best time of any runner -- regardless of class. Last year as a sophomore he finished third at Ojo Rojo as a soph behind two seniors. This spring in track he broke Corona's school record in the half-mile (1:53.31), a record that stood since 1992. It was held over that span by his father. He also is a part of two other school records -- the 4x400 and 4x800 set last year. He still trails Ari's school record in the 1,600 (4:10).
Nathan Rodriguez shoots for the top spot that eluded him last year at the 24th annual Ojo Rojo Invitational at Tumbleweed Park this Saturday (Sept. 22). Freshman races begin at 8:30 a.m. with the varsity girls race at 9, varsity boys at 9:35 and junior varsity races at 10:10. He's hoping that will kickoff a consistent year of 5K runs.
"I didn't run my best race, didn't feel that good at Chandler," Rodriguez said of his winning time (16 minutes ,2 seconds, which was 17 seconds better than any other finisher that day). "I want to go off my time at Ojo Rojo. Build on that. My goal is to do better at the big races like Twilight (Festival) and state. That's where you need to run your best and turn in good times."
Corona del Sol coach Patrick Smith is eager to see how Rodriguez will fare in 2012. He's noticed marked improvement and a gradually a more mature race runner.
"He had a very good year last year," Smith said. "From what I'm seeing he's stepped up to a new plane. I think he has a chance to be among the top threeor so in the state. He's put in more time, more miles and we're working on trying to slow him down. Getting him to pace himself more. He likes to get out fast. Sometimes that's to his detriment in races."
Ari Rodriguez, who is an assistant coach, never pushed Nathan to follow in his footsteps. Over time it just happened. And if someone was going to break his 800-meter school record, well you can imagine how he felt when it was his son that surpassed him.
"Basketball was his main thing," Ari Rodriguez said. "And he also ran. He knew I came from a running background. But he was happy playing basketball and I wanted him to do what he enjoyed. There is no sense doing something you're forced to or don't enjoy.
"After his freshman year he's put everything into track and cross country. He hasn't regretted it."
What hasn't pleased Nathan Rodriguez, at least in cross country, ishis performanc in big meets. He said he was unprepared for the pace at the Twilight Festival last year and not pleased with his showing at state (17th in Division I) although it was a couple spots higher than his freshman year (20th in Division II).
"Individually you want to run your best at big meets, that helps your team as well," Nathan Rodriguez said. "I'm working more on pace and running smarter this year. I'm nervous before races and have a tendency to want to break out when it's not ni my best interest. Sometimes I pay for that later."
If his track season last spring and resolve in cross country this year are an indication a payoff is on the horizon.