The Star-News


Running for Julianna: Otay Ranch cross country team cheering for one of its own

Fri, Sep 14 2012 02:22 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents

The “colors” of cancer are varied:

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month (teal/white), February is National Cancer Prevention Month, March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month (dark blue) and National Kidney Cancer Awareness Month (orange).

 April is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month (burgundy/ivory), Testicular Cancer Awareness Month (orchid) and Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month (periwinkle).

May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month (grey) and Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month (black). June includes National Cancer Survivors Day (June 3) and Sarcoma Awareness Week (yellow).

July is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month (marigold/blue/purple).

September is chock full of calendar events. It is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (gold), Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month (peach), Leukemia Awareness Month (orange), Lymphoma Awareness Month (green), Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month (burgundy), Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month (teal), Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month (teal/pink/blue) and Prostate Cancer Awareness Month (light blue).

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (pink) and Liver Cancer Awareness Month (emerald green).

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month (clear/white), National Family Caregivers Month (plum), Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month (purple) and Stomach Cancer Awareness Month (periwinkle).

Any way the spin is put on this devastating disease, it’s a rallying point for friends, relatives and, of course, victims.

Members of the Otay Ranch High School cross country team have come to terms with the often harsh realities of life sooner than many might have expected.

Julianna Corrao, who made a personal breakthrough as the Mustangs’ No. 2 place-finisher at last year’s San Diego Section Division I championship meet, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) last spring. She received the news a day before the track and field team’s awards banquet.

What was supposed to be a senior year filled with highlights has instead become one filled with simply battling for life.

If the support from her teammates is any indicator, Julianna appears to be winning so far.

Think pink
Corrao was seated in the shade in a wheelchair while the Mustangs participated in their annual time trials on Aug. 31. Her left leg was propped up following recent surgery, lengthy stitch markings still visible. A cap hid her bald head after months of chemotherapy treatments.

But on that day, she wore a smile on her face as every runner, after finishing the race, stopped by to say hello and accept a pink bracelet.

The lettering read “Together for Juli.” A heart symbol serves as punctuation.
Twin sister Alessandra — the girls are fraternal twins — stood courageously by Julianna’s side.

“I’m in this with her,” Alessandra said matter-of-factly, almost defiantly against the disease that has ravaged her sister’s body. “I want to be more than a spectator.”

That includes the rest of Julianna’s teammates.

Everyone realizes it will not be easy.

The cancerous tumor that had invaded Julianna’s body was located between the base of her femur and her knee cap. Chemotherapy treatments destroyed 90 percent of it prior to surgery.

During surgery, the entire knee joint was removed, along with 13 centimeters of bone on either side of it, and replaced with an artificial knee joint made of metal.

Alessandra now calls Julianna the Bionic Girl.

Teammates simply call Julianna brave.

Otay Ranch has won the last three Mesa League girls cross country championship titles and has hovered near the top of the San Diego Section rankings over that same time span. A state qualifying berth at November’s Division I finals is not out of the question.

Julianna admitted she was excited about her senior season. “And suddenly this happened,” she said in a downcast tone.

Instead, teammates are doing the running for her this season.

“She’s running a different race,” Alessandra said boldly.

“This one’s a lot longer,” Julianna quickly interjected.

Julianna attends school when she is not in the hospital; she also makes a point to attend on-campus practices when she is able.

ORHS head coach Ian Cumming said Julianna remains a part of the team and expects her to letter this season.

Cumming said the same skills that Corrao used to help her progress from being a borderline varsity runner to a Second Team All-Division I runner at last year’s section finals as a junior are helping her deal with the cancer.

“Just like she was a very strong competitor and optimist as a runner, she is battling cancer just as aggressively as she approached her training,” Cumming said. “She will continue to be part of our team and be there to cheer whenever possible.”

And the team very much remains a part of her.

Julianna would like to run again in the future but now “I have to walk first,” she said.
“Just being stuck at the hospital and not running with my teammates is the worst,” she said. “I really want to come and help support them.

“My goal is to be the best teammate I can be on the sideline.”

Julianna was unable to attend the Mustang/East Hills Realty Invitational at Rohr Park on Sept. 7 but her teammates made a personal statement by posting a second-place finish in the girls varsity Blue Division race.

Senior Carina Gillespie won the 2.3-mile race in 13:24. It was her second individual championship at the event after also winning it as a sophomore.

“I just wanted to run hard,” said Gillespie, who took the lead after the first mile. “I just wanted to run the way I always do, which is run for my team.”

And that includes Julianna.

High-stepping
•Joining Gillespie with top 10 individual finishes were Otay Ranch’s Catie LeDesma (seventh, 13:59) and Darla Osuna (ninth, 14:09). Andie LeDesma (36th, 14:56) and Bailie LeDesma (38th, 14:59) rounded out the Mustangs top five scorers.

•Bonita Vista was sixth and Sweetwater was 12th in the Blue Division girls varsity race. Sweetwater’s Erika Gonzalez was 20th among individuals in 14:38, followed by BV’s Kristen Lamprecht (21st, 14:39).

•Sweetwater finished fourth in the boys varsity Blue Division race, followed by Bonita Vista (seventh) and Otay Ranch (eighth). SuHi’s George Martinez was fourth among individuals in 16:54 (3.1 miles) while Bonita Vista’s Jacob Sherman was fifth in 17:11. 



•Sweetwater’s scorers also included Gerrardo Marquillo (seventh, 17:17), Bryan Alvarado (13th, 17:33), Carlos Bernal (48th, 18:20) and Raphael Grajeda (55th, 18:32). “We ran very well,” Red Devils coach Adrian Garcia said. “We’ve been training hard. We weren’t at 100 percent today, but in the races ahead of us, I think there is the potential to get better. It was a good day and I’m happy with the boys. I’m hoping for more of these days.”

•Otay Ranch’s top finisher was Rodrigo Baza (22nd, 17:46), followed by teammate Martin Martinez (29th, 17:59).

•Montgomery’s Kristine Jao finished fourth in the girls varsity Silver Division race in 14:58. Olympian’s Brissa Cabrero followed in 14th place in 15:50 while Mar Vista’s Monica Goodwin was 19th in 16:09.

•Otay Ranch was third in the Blue Division JV boys race, led by top scorers Chul Min Park (eighth, 13:11) and Isaiah Thomas (ninth, 13:12). A total of 159 runners finished the race. Bonita Vista was fifth while Sweetwater was eighth. Bonita Vista’s top finisher was Jonathan Ammerman (12th, 13:15) while Sweetwater’s top finisher was Jose Martinez (14th, 13:16).

•Mar Vista, Olympian and Montgomery finished fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, in the Silver Division boys JV race. Mar Vista’s Jose Burciaga was the top South Bay individual placer — 17th in 13:57; Montgomery freshman Vladimir Valle was 18th in 14:00 while Olympian’s Joseph Valentin was 22nd in 14:02.

•Olympian was sixth in the Silver Division boys JV race, led by Dusstin Coyote (25th, 18:46). Mar Vista was eighth, Southwest was ninth and Montgomery was 11th in the team standings. Southwest’s Augustine Barreto was 26th among individuals in 18:47, followed by Mar Vista’s Tony Cota (28th, 18:51).


For complete race results, visit www.sdtrackmag.com.


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