In our latest installment of Feature Friday, we shine the spotlight on Union Catholic senior Kaleigh Gunsiorowski
Gunsiorowski, named UC's Athlete of the Month for December, has been a catalyst for UC's girls cross-country team this fall, sparking the Vikings to its greatest season ever. With Gunsiorowski leading the charge, UC captured its first Meet of Champions girls title last month, and last Saturday the Vikings qualified for the Nike National Cross-Country Championships for the first time.
In the classroom, Gunsiorowksi is an Honor Roll Student, a member of the National Honor Society, and
Here is our Q and A with Gunsiorowski -
First off congrats to you and your teammates on qualifying for the Nike National Cross-Country Championships! How excited are you to be competing against all the top teams in the country this Saturday, and what kind of goals do you have personally and for your team?
Thank you so much! I'm ecstatic to even get the opportunity to head out to Portland to compete against the best of the best! Even being part of this experience is something I know I won't forget for a long time, so I'm going to try to make the most of it as I know any other team would love to be in our position. It would be a dream to be named an All-American as an individual, but even placing within the top 50 in the country would be amazing. As a team, we don't necessarily have team goals for this particular race, as we are just so grateful to be part of this. Obviously, we will go out on Saturday and race with our best effort, representing Union Catholic, the state of New Jersey, and the Northeast proudly.
This has been a historic season for your team, going undefeated for most of the season, winning the Meet of Champions for the first time ever, and finishing the season ranked No. 1. What are your thoughts on this magical season your team is having, and what were the keys for it to all come together the way it did?
This season has been everything we had imagined. From the start of our preseason back in July, we set each of these goals for ourselves with the end product being a spot on the starting line at Nike Cross Nationals. I would say the keys to our success this season stem from our incredible team chemistry, as I am proud to call this group of girls some of my closest friends. We trust in each other, our coaches, our training, and the fitness we have worked so hard to obtain. Before each race, I remind the girls that cross country is supposed to be fun. And I think that is part of the reason for our success, as winning is certainly more fun than the alternative!
You had to make a big decision to give up playing soccer last year to run cross-country. Obviously, it’s worked out great for you, but how tough was that choice, and what made you decide that running year-round was the way to go for you?
Deciding between continuing my soccer career and focusing more on running by participating in cross-country was certainly my toughest decision to date. Initially, I decided to pursue both but ultimately came to the decision that running was the activity I was most passionate about. The environment, training style, and community drew me towards cross-country and away from soccer. I will always love soccer and miss playing with my teammates, but running is where I thrive and I hope to continue to do so throughout the rest of high school and my upcoming college career.
After a strong junior cross-country season, you emerged as one of the state’s best runners this season, finishing fourth at the M of C and sixth at the Nike Regional, and you really became a great leader. What can you point to as the biggest difference from last year to this year for you? What did you do to drop your times so much, and what are your thoughts on the awesome season you had?
To me, the biggest difference between this year from last year was the experience I obtained from my junior year of cross-country. I was so new to the sport that I lacked the confidence I probably should have had. Having a year under my belt allowed me to feel like I deserved the respect to be a good leader amongst the girls and even in my own mind, letting me trust my ability and skills as a competitive runner across the state, region, and hopefully nation. I credit so much of my individual success this season to my newest training partners, Peyton Hollis and Courtney Kaiser. These girls have pushed me through the hard days just as much as I did for them, making our team so incredibly strong as our front trio. This season has been so special, as we reached all of the goals we had set out to reach on a team level. Cross-country is more of a team sport than most people realize, so I am most proud that I was able to help direct this team to the success we experienced more than any individual success of my own.
Switching gears here- can you list everything else that you are involved in at UC (Ambassador, clubs etc.)?
Student Ambassadors, Connection Crew, Hearts for Heroes, National Honors Society, Spanish Honors Society, St. Jude's Leadership Society, Eucharistic Minister
What do you enjoy the most about representing Union Catholic as a Student Ambassador?
As a Student Ambassador, I enjoy representing Union Catholic as they were the majority of the reason why I decided to attend this school. Visiting campus back in 2019 before my freshman year, the Student Ambassadors' ability to answer questions, share insight, and just welcoming personality was far different from any other high school I had toured. I am proud to be a member of this prestigious group and hopefully be the reason more people choose Union Catholic.
Can you list all the awards/honors you have received at UC. Honor Roll etc?
National Honors Society Inductee and Member, Spanish Honors Society Inductee and Member, Honor Roll Student (all four years), Union Catholic Hall of Fame Scholarship winner
What does it mean to you to earn those awards, and to have achieved so much academic success?
Being able to earn and receive each of these awards means so much to me because I have put time and effort into my academics and the results reciprocate. Being the younger sister of 2021 Union Catholic graduate, Maddie Gunsiorowski, I have made it a goal for myself to perform just as well, if not better than she did in the classroom, and I would say I am doing a fairly good job.
What do you love the most about being a student at Union Catholic?
What I love the most about being a Union Catholic student is the ability to continue on the legacy that my sister, father, and aunts and uncles had established throughout their time as Vikings. This school is all about tradition and excellence, and I am happy to say that I contribute to those categories.
Why and how did you decide that UC was the place for you to be? What was it about UC that made you want to be a student here?
With my sister (Maddie) a student at UC while I was in the eighth grade, I was scared to follow in her footsteps because of how large of a mark she had already made as a sophomore. But following my freshmen year, I knew I had made the right decision. No other school in the area has the perfect balance of academics, faith, community, and athletics that Union Catholic does right down the street from my house. I truly cannot imagine myself anywhere else.
What kind of advice would you give to younger students who are considering attending UC? Why should they come to UC and what will UC give them that they won’t be able to find at other schools?
The biggest piece of advice I would give to a younger student who is considering attending UC would be to make the most of every opportunity you are given. I was so blessed to have the option to attend a school like Union Catholic and the plans I have for the future simply would not be attainable had I gone to any other school. Like I said before, UC provides the perfect balance that it truly is hard to find something you do not like here. Every decision made at Union Catholic has the intention of the student first, and it clearly shows in the level of education each student is given.
What specifically can you point to as the things that you’ve benefited from the most from your experience as a student at UC?
Specifically, I have benefited from my experience as a student of UC through my involvement in athletics. Participating in each of the sports I have, even before finding cross-country and track, has allowed me to realize that hard work is rewarding. Now as a senior, I am deciding between some of the best universities in the country to continue my athletic and academic endeavors at the highest level. That opportunity is definitely something I would never receive anywhere else.
What do you like to do in your spare time, if you have any? Do you have any hobbies, things you enjoying
doing when you aren't running or studying?
In my spare time, I like to drive to random places, hang out with friends, and go out to eat (especially Playa Bowls). Some hobbies I have outside of running or studying would include surfing, biking, and casually walking with my friends or siblings. It is important that I have a life outside of the things I take so seriously like school and athletics, or I would probably go insane.
What are you looking forward to the most the rest of this school year?
For the rest of this school year, I am most looking forward to the final moments I will spend with the class of 2023 before we part ways after four years.
What town do you live in?
Favorite class and teacher at UC?
Anatomy and Physiology with Mrs. Goworek.
Favorite UC memory?
When Dr. Sagendorf would sing summaries of chapters in AP US History.
Favorite UC Core Value and why?
Community because I have discovered the biggest of families at UC.
How about the future? Have you decided between BC and ND yet? What type of career would you like to pursue?
For the future, I have decided between Boston College and Notre Dame, but I will not be releasing it until next week. And I hope to pursue a career in business.
One word to describe your UC experience?