By David Lee Morgan Jr.
Beacon Journal sports writer
Katie Gillespie's favorite school period of the day? Lunch, of course.
Her next favorite?
Study hall, naturally.
Then there's her other favorites like religion, German and physics.
The point is that Gillespie, Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy's standout senior distance runner, loves being in high school and wants to soak up every second of her last year.
She's proud of her accomplishments on the cross country course and on the track. Last year during the cross country season, she finished fourth at the Division II state meet.
And during the track season, Gillespie, wearing her trademark bright yellow sunglasses, won four state championships as the team won the overall title. Gillespie ran as a member of the winning 3,200 relay team and won individual state championships in the 1,600 and 3,200.
This year, Gillespie said, she is trying to hold on to as many memories as possible.
''I don't want high school to end,'' she said. ''I love my school. I love my classes. I love my friends and I love my teammates.''
As Gillespie and her teammates look
toward the PAC-7 cross country championship and the postseason, the Royals (5-0) have established themselves as one of the top teams in the state — in any division — with the likes of Gillespie, senior Carolyn Case, sophomore Joy Talbott, freshman Laura Rybka, sophomore Irene Frangos, senior Brittany Fabris, senior Brianna Jones.
The Royals have put together an incredible streak. Since joining the PAC-7 in 2001, they have never been beaten in a league race and have won the championship each year.
''The team (concept) has always been strong at the school in past years and kids like Katie and Carolyn just picked up what the seniors before them had done,'' CVCA coach George Hallis said. ''A lot of teams say they have close teams and I know we do.
''The ones who have left and gone to college always come back and say their college teams aren't the same as it was here.''
Hallis said Case stepped up as one of the top senior leaders as well, which has taken some burden off Gillespie. The senior leadership has become a responsibility within the program over the years that isn't taken lightly.
As Gillespie talks about her athletic family and all that it has and still wants to accomplish, she said the team feels no pressure to win every meet.
''We're always talking and laughing when we're together,'' Gillespie said. ''We try to keep a lively and fun environment. If we're running against a good team, that will show us where we need to be, so we just pray for strength to get through it. And coach Hallis does a great job of keeping us focused.''
CVCA will be competing in the Malone College Invitational this weekend, a meet that will include a majority of Division I teams.
''That will be good for us,'' Hallis said. ''We'll get a chance to run against a few Division I teams we haven't faced before, like North Royalton and Mason, which are strong teams [in the state].''
The district, regional and state meets will be run Oct. 18, Oct. 25 and Nov. 1, respectively.
David Lee Morgan Jr. can be reachedat firstname.lastname@example.org.