Heritage cross country team wins state in its division

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he members of the Heritage Academy Gateway state championship junior high cross country team are, front row from left: Ashton Gray, Austin Virgin, Graeden Anderson, Jonathan Schlerf and Miles Peoples; and back row from left: Coach Christie Higgins, Jake Murray, Jacob Pieczynski, Gage Ryan, Jacob Forsgren and Tannis Manha. Not pictured is team member Brendan Voorhees. Mrs. Higgins was named Boys Division I Coach of the Year.

Heritage Academy Gateway in Queen Creek is home of the Canyon Athletic Association, (charter school) Division I, boys junior high cross country state champions.
In its inaugural year, the team showed tremendous determination and improvement throughout the season. By mid-season the runners became more consistent as a team and took first place at both the Patriot Invitational and Charger Classic, both hosted by Queen Creek schools.

Showing their potential in even larger events, the Heritage Gateway athletes took third place at the regional meet in Mayer, Arizona. Exceeding all expectations, four Heritage Gateway runners placed in the top 10, leading the team to victory.

As a result of the boys’ achievements, I was honored to have been awarded Boys Division I Coach of the Year.

The team is excited by their success and look forward to next season.

Graeden Anderson placed high enough in every race in which he participated to qualify for an individual medal. He was always the top runner for our team in every meet.
He’s also just a great kid and a pleasure to be around. If every student was like him it would change people’s perception of teenagers.

This whole group was so fun to coach. Due to scheduling, they had to practice during their last period class, which meant they ran at 2 p.m. with the 100-degree-plus heat when the season started. Not once did they ever complain.

I told them before we started the first practice that cross-country runners have to like suffering. I can’t tell you how many times they came in from running and I would ask how they were doing and they responded with. “I’m suffering coach and I like it!”

This group will always hold a very special place in both my personal and professional lives. They have what can’t be coached — sheer determination and heart.
They are the type of athletes that every coach dreams of having on his or her team.

Editor’s note: Christie Higgins teaches social studies, English and athletics at Heritage Academy Queen Creek, Gateway campus, 19705 E. Germann Road. For more information about the charter school, visit www.heritageacademyaz.com.

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