When Isaac Cortes was a fifth-grader at Mountain Way Elementary School in Granite Falls, he was asked to run a mile as part of his physical education class.
Cortes set a Mountain Way school record of 6 minutes, 9 seconds that still stands.
“Teachers found out about that and once I got to middle school, they told me I should come out and run,” said Cortes, now a senior at Granite Falls and one of the top 1A cross-country runners in the state.
Cortes, who estimates he can currently run a mile in around 4 minutes, 27 seconds, has put in the work to be great.
“Isaac has made steady progress throughout his career,” first-year Granite Falls cross country coach Steve Lantz said. “He’s not afraid to work and he does what we ask him to do.”
At the Class 1A state meet last fall, Lantz said Cortes chased down two other runners in the final 200 meters of the 5,000-meter race, clinching a third-place finish.
“He’s a fierce competitor and performs well when the stakes are high,” Lantz said.
The Herald spoke with Cortes last week to discuss his running, his plans for the future and the enrichment he gets from his faith and mission trips.
What’s your favorite cross country course of all the ones you’ve competed on during your high school career?
I really like the Nike Twilight Invitational course (at Marysville’s Cedarcrest Golf Course), mostly because it gets us prepared for state, with state being at a golf course (Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco). It’s got some hills and and it’s similar to the state course.
Speaking of courses, the coaching staff and teams at Granite Falls are working on a new cross country course on campus. How’s that going?
Steve has always wanted us to have our own home course. He’s gotten permission from the school to start building a trail and to cut down some trees and put in some gates. He and some of our team members have laid down some wood chips for it. We’re pretty excited to have our own course, because when we race on it (a home North Sound Conference meet on Oct. 17) we’ll really know the course.
What are your plans for next year?
I definitely want to run in college. I feel like my passion for running won’t just stop, and I want to keep doing it for as along as I can. I took a visit to (NCAA Division II) Saint Martin’s. I’m looking at (majoring in) business administration. I’m taking some business classes at Everett Community College right now.
Outside of running, what are you passionate about?
I’m a part of the youth group at Holy Cross Catholic Church (in Lake Stevens) and I’ve been on mission trips to Montana and Tijuana in Mexico helping to build houses. It’s a great time to self-evaluate and think about how we have so much, and how we can take a lot of it for granted.
You’ve demonstrated an ability to have enough left in the tank at the end of races to chase people down in the last few hundred meters. What does it take to be able to do that?
At that point in the race, everyone’s hurting as much as I am. I don’t really think about it in that moment, but your whole season has all been for that moment. It’s really easy to just stop and to say, ‘I won’t go for it,’ but I might as well and try to do something great. It’s really easy to be afraid of those moments, but sometimes you can do something really special.