North Phoenix Gladiators Ready For Battle

The Gladiator boys return their entire varsity squad from last year and are ready to challenge not just the small schools but most of the large schools as well. Led by the returning state-champion Jordan Black, his teammates hope to close the gap for some critical points. Thomas Koska, Richie Johnston, and Sammy Johnston are all remarkably talented underclassmen who have developed very well at North Phoenix. Koska and Richie Johnston both had impressive cross-country seasons even breaking 17-minutes at Nike Southwest. They continued that momentum through the spring, and were joined by Sammy Johnston at the AIA Track and Field State Championships, where they all scored points in the D4 Boys 3200m race.

Coach Brad Curtis Says…

Who are your top returners?
We are fortunate this season to be returning our Top 5 from last season with Jordan Black and Rocco Berbetti leading the team as Seniors. Richie Johnston returns after being the fastest D4 sophomore from last season, Thomas Koska the fastest D4 freshman, and Sammy Johnston the 5th fastest D4 freshman.
Do you have any impact freshman or incoming transfers?
It is always tough to predict how an athlete will perform in competition especially when they have never competed in a cross-country race. We do have two athletes that are looking to make a big contribution tour team this season. Ariel Antonini, now a sophomore, was with our team at the beginning of last season until a back injury sidelined him for 6 months. He is now back with our team and ready to compete.
We have also added a Senior, Isaiah Ryan, that has performed very well during our summer conditioning. I suspect he will be a factor for our team as the season progresses.
What kind of mileage are you guys doing and what has been the focus of the current phase of your training?
Our athletes are all working on different mileage plans based on their abilities and strengths. Jordan Black is currently running 60 miles per week and will max out around 70 this season. Rocco Berbetti, Thomas Koska, and Sammy Johnston are running around 40 with 50 being their max. While Richie Johnston will stay with a lower mileage around 30-40. Our newer boys will max out around 30-35 miles per week this season. This summer we have been working on building a base though we always incorporate at least one hill day and one day of speed into our week. The whole month of August will heavily incorporate hill training plus building fitness on grassy terrain.
(Left: Rocco Berbetti and Richie Johnston finished among the top 20 finishers in the D4 Boys race at the AIA State Championships. - photo by John Hays)
What's the most important thing you want young people to learn through running?
I believe that running is the greatest sport in the world. I want our athletes to understand that this is a lifetime sport and building friendships and relationships are what this is all about. I dedicated this summer to taking our team around the valley to run in different locations, run with different teams, and show them what the running community is all about. My hope is that not only will our team become better but it will raise everyone up in the process.
Have you set any goals as a team?
Our first goal of any season is to have fun and stay healthy. With that said, this season we have also set some goals that are lofty. The Boys D4 Division has been dominated for a long time by Hopi and recently by Northland Prep. They are definitely two of the teams that will be fighting it out at State and we hope to be a part of that battle. Our goals are connected to how we do at the D4 State Championship but also to how we perform as a team when compared with the entire state of Arizona. We are a small school of around 200 students but we are looking to push even the largest of programs this season.
Check out stats of the returning North Phoenix Prep boys on the next page.