Former Green Valley standout Abby Miller set a high standard for Southern Nevada cross country runners, winning four consecutive state titles from 1996 to 1999.
But ever since Katie Gorczyca started showing up at local races as an eighth-grader and posting eyebrow-raising times, the comparisons to Nevada’s only four-time girls state champion have been obvious.
And Gorczyca, now a freshman who runs for Palo Verde, already has shown she’s worthy of those comparisons.
“What makes Katie special is the side most people don’t get a chance to see,” Palo Verde coach Robert Davis said. “Running makes Katie happy, and that makes her a perfect fit for our team. Katie gets the same smile whether she is telling a bad joke, running an easy 10, breaking a course record or cheering on her team.
“While everyone is speculating about their future, Katie is just being a kid, running cross country and having fun.”
Gorczyca is undefeated in races run in Nevada, including the prestigious Las Vegas Invitational, where she won the 3.1-mile varsity race in 19 minutes, 45 seconds.
In her first major out-of-state race, Gorczyca finished third in the Division 1 race at the Stanford Invitational. She finished in a time of 18:52 for 3.1 miles and led for much of the race.
“I was surprised to be leading,” Gorczyca said. “In fact, I led pretty much the entire race and set the pace for the two girls behind me. I was feeling really strong until 300 meters to go. My legs shut down. The two girls behind me passed in front, and my fast pace went to a slow jog.”
Davis said Gorczyca didn’t dwell on the race’s finish.
“The Stanford Invitational was a great example of why Katie is special,” Davis said. “She is a student of running, and after the initial anger subsided, Katie learned from the experience.”
Gorczyca’s love of running quickly showed itself at Palo Verde’s practices, where she took on optional workouts and pushed her teammates to do the same.
“During our interval workouts, we have what I like to call the bonus round,” Davis said. “Anyone who feels good can do an extra repeat or two. This quickly became known as the ‘Katie Round’ because she always does the max. In the first week or two, she did them alone, but then the pride of our seniors kicked in, and they were running the bonus round, too.
“Now Katie has plenty of company.”
Gorczyca has had little company in races since she started competing locally as an eighth-grader.
Last October, Gorczyca finished first overall (19:03) at the Halloween Run for Cancer 5K. The fastest time by a girl from Southern Nevada at the state cross country championships, which was run over the same distance two weeks later, was 20:18.
In January, Gorczyca finished first at the Las Vegas Track Club’s Championship 10K (6.2 miles) in a time of 41:17. Then 13, Gorczyca beat a number of former college runners.
Though Gorczyca had clearly found her sport, finding a high school was no sure thing. The family is zoned for Palo Verde, but her sister, Stephanie, is a junior at The Meadows. Bishop Gorman also was a possibility.
But ultimately Gorczyca chose West Career and Technical Academy. The school doesn’t have an athletic program, so Gorczyca can run at Palo Verde.
“Katie came to Palo Verde because she wanted other girls to train with, and she found herself a team that has embraced her and inspired her as much as she has inspired them,” Davis said.
Gorczyca also sounds happy with her choice.
“My teammates at Palo make me laugh every day at practice, and I love them to death,” Gorczyca said. “I honestly couldn’t ask for a better team. My new school, West CTA, is great, too. I have already made a lot of friends, and the campus is beautiful.”
On Tuesday, Gorczyca posted the fastest time of the day at the Freshman-Sophomore Championships at Desert Breeze Park (15:08 for 2.5 miles), shattering the previous course record of 16:53.
This weekend, she returns to California with her team to run at the Central Park Invitational in Huntington Beach.
“This season has been a work in progress,” Davis said. “And rest assured, the best is yet to come.”In-depth high school sports coverage