Crater’s Tyrone Gorze is a man on a mission
CENTRAL POINT — During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when athletes were left to their own devices to train, the sudden shift didn’t stop Tyrone Gorze from keeping a consistent routine.
In March 2020, Gorze was just several months removed from placing in the top 10 at the Class 5A state championships and running a sub-16 minute time on the 5,000-meter course — a significant milestone for the then-freshman. The fall season led into winter training and from there, the early stages of the spring cross-country season before it all came to a halt with stay-at-home orders in place.
“I remember when the first day we got practice canceled, I think it was March 13, and we were supposed to do a 10-mile time trial that day. I went on a run by myself and I was like, ‘This is going to be tough, just going by yourself,’” Gorze said.
Over the ensuing few months, Gorze didn’t take any time off. Initially, he was mostly by himself, focusing more on the runs themselves than specific workouts. Then the group grew to a select few people, and when the team reintroduced time trials it gave Gorze something else to work toward.
Along the way, few, if any other runners communicated with Crater head coach Justin Loftus more often than Gorze to log his training.
“Our team lost a little identity,” Loftus said of that time, “and he was one of the kids texting me constantly just to keep me updated on his training and what he was doing. He was honestly going outside the box just pushing himself on his own.”
By the time he returned to competition in the spring of 2021 for shortened cross-country and track and field seasons, Gorze hardly skipped a beat from where he left off as a freshman. There was no greater example than in May, when he ran the fastest 1,500-meter time by a sophomore in Oregon state history, 3 minutes, 50.88 seconds, at the end-of-season Class 5A Invitational.
Coming off that record-breaking performance effort to wrap up his sophomore year, Gorze and his coaches are now having conversations about how the upperclassmen can reach another level. The progression Gorze had during the past 18 months during an unusual sequence of events was indicative of the effort he put into it, which his head coach has taken note of.
With the third-fastest cross-country time in 5A this season (14:59.7), Gorze appears to be a state-level contender as an individual, while the Crater boys team is currently ranked No. 1 in the latest 5A coaches poll.
The Comets will showcase what they’ve been working toward tonight when they host the Crater Twilight on their home track, with fellow local teams South Medford, Grants Pass, Eagle Point, Phoenix and Cascade Christian also competing. The 5,000-meter race begins at 6 p.m.
“He had built such a good base over that year and a half that he was ready for pretty much anything,” Loftus said.
“We had no clue where it would go, like it went. I basically lined up goals for him, he lined up goals for himself and he went into the season and he pretty much hit every one of them, or better. It was pretty amazing.”
Added Gorze: “I just stayed consistent, stuck with the plan that coach Loftus gave me and I feel like it worked out pretty well.”
When Gorze was in sixth grade at Scenic Middle School, Crater High had a strong group of upperclassmen including Walter Vail, Andy Monroe, Jantz Tostenson, Derek Tripp, Erik Olsen, some of whom went on to Division I programs.
Gorze was well aware of their accomplishments and watched in awe of what they could do.
“I always looked up to the Crater guys,” he said. “To be an upperclassmen now at Crater, it’s definitely an awesome feeling. With the history — I think coach Loftus has been coaching for like 21 years now, so he’s seen a lot and he’s definitely I would say one of the top coaches in the state, maybe even in the nation. Just to have that type of coach, it really improves the athletes and it’s really cool to be a part of a program like this.”
Another group of upperclassmen to look up to and foundation in place helped bridge the gap for Gorze between his eighth grade and freshman year at Crater.
By the end of that season, when he ran a 15:53.9 at state, finishing the fastest among all freshmen and the second fastest Crater finisher behind senior Gage Reed, Gorze and the Comets had plenty to build on for the offseason.
“It was definitely important because I think my entire goal that season was to go sub-16 (minutes),” Gorze said. “That was kind of a point, you know, to finish off the season on a good note, it really pumped me up in the offseason to train better.”
Of course, as it would turn out, that offseason was like none other in the history of the program. But as Gorze looks back on that time now, there was one thing above all else that helped him get through it.
“The most important thing throughout my entire high school running career has just been consistency — throughout freshman year, throughout quarantine and that COVID time, it’s just been consistency,” Gorze said.
Although the junior still has plenty of time left with Crater to add to what has already been an impressive list of accomplishments, Loftus believes Gorze’s approach to the sport already puts him among an elite group in the program’s history.
“Just in Tyrone’s work ethic, the way he presents himself, the way he talks to people, his maturity level and how he does his day-to-day routine is far advanced,” Loftus said. “He rolls like a professional athlete while he’s going to high school, and that’s something you don’t get every day.”
“I think the best is yet to come, to be honest,” continued the coach. “We went through six weeks of smoke and we haven’t hit any huge races yet. I think Friday night will be a good tell as far as where we’re at physically, because he wants to go out and push things.”
Reach reporter Will Denner at 541-776-4479 or firstname.lastname@example.org.