Gretchen Lohr Corrales
Gretchen Lohr Corrales

On Friday morning, the last of her life, Gretchen Corrales discovered a new trail in Griffith Park. That might have seemed impossible with the hundreds of hours the All-American track star and longtime coach had spent running there.

Joined by a young woman she'd coached a few years earlier, she remarked on how beautiful it was, the sun breaking through the clouds.

That afternoon, about 2, Corrales' body was found seat-belted into her car about 10 miles away. She'd been shot in the head.

Her husband, 36-year-old Gilberto Corrales, was arrested and held on $1 million bail.

He was formally charged with murder Tuesday.

It was an end all the more shocking because Gretchen Corrales only seemed to get better as she got older.

"I think at 53 she was probably in the best shape of her life," said Jana Kofman, a childhood friend.

On Oct. 21, Corrales was the fastest woman in a Pacific Palisades triathlon, finishing in slightly more than 47 minutes, the Palisadian-Post newspaper reported.

Born Gretchen Lohr, she grew up in Studio City and went to North Hollywood High.

She was athletic as a kid but not a born runner. In fact, her sister said, she hated track in high school.

But once she started running, she never stopped. She thrived on cross-country because it got her away from asphalt and out in the nature she loved, said Adrienne Gavura, one of her two younger sisters.


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After getting a degree from California Institute of the Arts, she became an All-American runner at Cal State Los Angeles in her late 20s and qualified for the Olympic trials.

In 1989, not long before she turned 30, she came in fourth in the Los Angeles Marathon. Later, Corrales coached track and cross-country at Cal State L.A. and at Louisville High School in Woodland Hills.

Also a painter and sketcher, "she could just draw anything," Kofman said.

Her spirit matched her abilities.

Friend Elizabeth Kern called Corrales "the nicest person I've ever met."

Marilyn Hyman, the athletic director at the all-girls Louisville High, said the young athletes there looked up to Corrales.

"She was the type of person that if you needed something you would just call her," Kofman said.

Running could also have offered moments of peace in a life that had too much conflict.

In 2010, Corrales left an assistant coaching job at Cal State-L.A. In a lawsuit filed this year, which was still pending at the time of her death, she said she was fired on the pretext of an NCAA rules violation after complaining about an affair between a coach and an athlete.

Corrales had long been estranged from her second husband, Gilberto, with whom she had 9-year-old twins, a boy and a girl.

Gilberto Corrales was arrested in August on suspicion of making threats and later convicted of a misdemeanor disturbance charge. He spent 17 days in jail and was released Aug. 22. Gavura said that case involved a dispute with her sister.

The two never divorced because of the children, Gavura said.

Gretchen lived in Atwater Village. Gilberto lived on Hooper Avenue in South L.A., blocks from the corner of Long Beach Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, where her body was found Friday.

LAPD detectives could not be reached for comment on the case. Gavura said people who were with her sister told her Gilberto Corrales asked her for a ride to a swap meet Friday.

She said no, but agreed to give him a ride to a train station, and he stormed off, Gavura said.

A friend last saw her driving off in the direction he'd gone. That was between 11 and noon. Within a couple of hours at most, Gretchen Corrales was dead.

A friend, Louise O'Brien Schridde, and Louisville High's Hyman said they both want to help raise money for the children Corrales left behind.

Schridde said there's talk of a 10K run in her honor. The site: Griffith Park.

eric.hartley@dailynews.com

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