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South’s Maiorano to sign with Gonzaga

Panthers’ standout to make college choice official Wednesday afternoon

In making his college choice, Michael Maiorano wanted a place that felt like home.

He’s found that to the north in Spokane, Wash., a place that gives him plenty of reminders of what it’s like in the Rogue Valley.

Maiorano, South’s standout runner on the Panthers’ cross-country and track teams, will make his college plans official during a ceremony at the high school this afternoon when he signs a national letter of intent to attend Gonzaga University next fall.

“It just really reminds me of the valley,” Maiorano said of Spokane. “It’s a pretty decently sized city, but then 10 or 15 minutes and you’re out in the hills. In Medford, we go to Jacksonville and Medford a lot, but our club team name and the place we go to the most is Buncom out in the Applegate. Buncom, Oregon … that’s the spot for us in the Rogue Valley. Hopefully I’ll be able to find little nooks and crannies in Spokane.”

Maiorano made his decision to attend Gonzaga the day before Thanksgiving, a couple of weeks after he finished eighth at the Class 6A cross-country state meet in Eugene.

It came down to Gonzaga and BYU, with other schools like Stanford, Washington, Notre Dame and Wake Forest having previously been in the mix.

As much as it helped that Spokane reminded him of home, the fact that Maiorano clicked immediately with head coach Pat Tyson, who has been with the Zags’ cross-country program for nearly two decades, was the deciding factor.

“BYU, Wake Forest, Stanford, Notre Dame, Washington, they all felt like really good fits and honestly, some might say they felt like perfect fits, but even though they were pretty perfect they weren’t the best fit,” Maiorano said. “Coach Tyson is like my second dad, and I’m definitely a huge priority of his. I wanted to go somewhere where I was a priority and that was a big reason why I chose Gonzaga.”

Tyson, who has developed Gonzaga into a consistent top-10 team in the West, was in attendance this past Saturday when Maiorano placed fourth at the Eastbay Cross-Country Championships West Regional in Southern California, a race won by Crater’s Tyrone Gorze.

Maiorano and Gorze will compete in the ECCC National Finals this Saturday in San Diego.

“I think for me, the charisma of coach Tyson is second to none,” Maiorano said. “I like that and that’s how I strive to be, and it’s about running and running with your friends, and that’s a big priority. Second to that is the relationships you make and then third to that is winning. Those are three of my biggest priorities in running and in life.

“Free college is something I never thought I would get, so that’s a big blessing. To get the decision over with and have my future coach in Los Angeles watching, I think it’s going to make things a lot more clearer. It’s a big weight off my chest.”

Maiorano will head to Spokane in the fall with a lengthy list of accomplishments from his four years as a Panther.

Just about every distance running record at South Medford belongs to Maiorano.

He ran the 3,000 meters in 8 minutes, 19.95 seconds this past May at the Phillips-Klimek Distance Twilight in Phoenix, one of the fastest times in the nation last spring. Three weeks later, Maiorano set the school record in the 1,500 with a time of 3:53.85.

He also holds school records in the 1,600 (4:32.03), 3,200 (8:51.38), 2 mile (9:30.1) and 5,000 (15:11.6).

Prior to his eighth-place finish at the state cross-country meet, Maiorano was second at the Southwest Conference district meet in late October and was third at the Southern Oregon Conference regional meet this past spring.

“There’s the progression of the obvious where he’s a lot taller and he’s got the lean muscular look that he didn’t have when he came (to South Medford) as a freshman, so that has changed,” South Medford cross-country coach Josh Wallace said. “Just his mentality, that running mental strength that you need when the moment in the race comes when you have those doubts or pain comes and you have to push through, that’s been cool to see.”

But something Wallace also credits is Maiorano’s dedication as well as his desire just to strive for more no matter what is next up or where the next race is.

“His work ethic is extraordinary and his consistency has paid off big-time,” Wallace said. “He’s been consistent since I’ve known him as a freshman. At the end of each season, he’ll take eight or 10 days, maybe two weeks off, but after that he’s back at it. I think that’s allowed him to avoid injuries and then also have a steady progression.”

Making things more complicated for Maiorano this past cross-country season was the fact that he was running with a strained glute for two months. He also suffered the loss of his grandfather, who Maiorano described as “one of my biggest fans.”

“State was really about being there for my team and my family,” Maiorano said.

With his college future now settled and about to be made official, the excitement for what’s to come is palpable simply by talking to Maiorano about where he’s going to spend the next four years.

Maiorano knows that Gonzaga, which was 26th at the NCAA National Championships on Nov. 20, is a program on the rise and gives him the chance to continue that upward progression right from the time he gets on campus.

“Gonzaga gives me a good opportunity to be on a team that’s rising and still making it to nationals, but still be on a team where I can contribute to making them a powerhouse,” Maiorano said. “Some schools you might go to and you never know if you’re going to race for them just because of how good they are, but I think I couldn’t have picked a better program that’s up-and-coming.”

First, though, is one last track season for South, with his eyes fully on success at any opportunity.

“I’m super ecstatic to be running pain free,” Maiorano said. “I had a really solid junior campaign and hopefully I can improve upon those times. My goals are just to win races. I want to run some fast times.”

Based on what he’s done the last 3 1/2 years, there’s a pretty good chance of that, which will make those at Gonzaga even more happy about his upcoming arrival.

Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford's Michael Maiorano runs alone on his way to winning the 3,000-meter run at Grants Pass High School this past spring.