Posted by King Track & Field on Jun 02 2021 at 03:55PM PDT
“This isn’t over yet!” said John Corona to his track and field team on Wednesday. It was a typical challenge from a coach to a team with three weeks still to go in the 2021 season, but the words came on the heels of his announcement that his almost four decade run as a coach will, finally, be coming to an end.

John Corona’s storied career as a coach of basketball, football and track while at Arlington High School, then at the helm of the Martin Luther King High track program since 2003 is the stuff of legend. Literally thousands of high school athletes have been under his passionate and caring watch over the decades.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that it is just time. It’s just time to go in different directions; time to experience other things and it is time to get to things I need to get to” he said.

The decision was actually made in June of 2020 but given the complexities that COVID-19 ushered into the education system, Corona decided to continue on to relieve whomever the next head coach would be from having to assume such leadership in the middle of a pandemic.

“The Three C’s” – Class, Character, Courage – have been the pillars upon which his program at King was built. “I have always wanted our program to be about and for our neighborhood kids and families” he has said more times than one can count. The “Three C’s” were the avenues on which he traveled to that goal.

The sport of Track and Field naturally lends itself to individuality, and amid the high-intensity sports culture of Southern California, such a goal and philosophy has increasingly become a bit of a throwback to a bygone era. But a “team-centric” approach has never lost value despite the cultural headwinds and for Corona, tenaciously working toward that goal has proved successful. Under his leadership, the King track and field program has enabled incredibly elite student-athletes to rise to great heights, but such status was never at the expense of the whole. It would be very difficult for a student-athlete of any athletic level to leave the program and not recognize what was most important to John Corona: Team.

John never saw himself as the Alpha Dog of the Wolves, he was always gracious to spread around the praise the program garnered. That can be attributed to his humility and general outlook on what high school sports entail, but it’s likely too because he was reminded daily of what the point is, what the goal should be.

Each day the team assembled, a call and response routine, first initiated in 2003, rang forth. The team – which most years was in excess of 200 – are called into a tight crowd, arms raised in unity: “How far?!” the coach yells to the throng. “All the way!” they reply, equally boisterous. “How we getting there?!” John asks next, a crescendo rising. “TOGETHER!!” the kids yell.

“1, 2, 3…” he belts out, the “three” becomes less crisp, the syllable lingers until interrupted by a hearty athletic yell: “WOLFPACK!”

The shout echoes off the stadium, bounces back and hits like a fore-finger to the chest, an audible reminder to not forget what high school sports is really all about.

It will continue to reverberate in the memories of those who took part.