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Gonoude puts stamp on stellar running career

When high school started, Kyle Gonoude began to lose interest in football. Soccer wasn't the answer either.

But his parents encouraged him to pick up a sport in the fall season. That's how the runner inside Gonoude blossomed with cross country and moved onto track and field in the spring.

The rest is history.

"I was a football player until my ninth grade year of high school," Gonoude said. "My mom was like 'You're going to do a sport.' I tried to play soccer. I was like, 'Oh, I need to learn how to kick a soccer ball. I don't want to do that.' My older sister [Taylor Gonoude] did cross country, so I was like yeah I'll jump on board with that, too. It just went off from there."

It was probably impossible to imagine it then, but Gonoude became one of the top distance runners the Lehigh Valley has seen in recent years. This past school year put the stamp on his high school career, capped by the Salisbury Press Male Athlete of the Year award.

In his senior track and field season, Gonoude was a two-time gold medalist in the 1600- and 3200-meter runs. He earned gold in the 3200 a week prior at leagues, as well as a second-place finish in the 1600. It all ended with a sixth-place finish and a medal in the 1600 at the PIAA Track and Field Championships.

"States was fun with my teammates as always," Gonoude said. "Even though I didn't run as fast of a time, I ran a much better race than I did last year. I was completely happy with how everything went."

In that 1600 race at states, Gonoude ran the second-fastest time in the preliminary round behind Beaver Falls' Domenic Perretta, the eventual champion and last year's top finisher. Once the finals rolled around the next day, Gonoude was one of the top eight finishers to earn a medal.

"You know how in basketball they say 'survive and advance' or something," Gonoude said. "I just did that, and I was like whatever I have left for the last day is what I have left.

"I just knew that my seed time was a lot worse than what I could really run. The defending state champ was in my heat, so I stuck behind him the whole time. I knew if I would finish right behind him, I was totally in for the finals."

He may have finished as one of the state's top distance runners, but his track and field season didn't come and go without some obstacles. Between multiple injuries and a long winter, frustration seemed to be the theme of Gonoude's spring.

"It was very frustrating having all of that snow on my track for the first couple of weeks," Gonoude said. "Then we shoveled off a little bit and it eventually melted. It got frustrating after I hurt myself. And then I hurt myself again. But then again it was good because I got to get to work in the middle of the season.

"I got hurt early, and I had to bounce back from that. I just did what I do every year, or at least try to do. I went out there and did my best and performed as well as I could. I finished with a state medal for my coach and myself."

Cross country provided many more memorable experiences for Gonoude in the fall. After winning leagues and districts for the second consecutive season, he took on the field at the state level. The result was his first state cross country medal, finishing in 11th place in a time of 16:33 in Hershey.

That was the second of three state medals Gonoude received in his career. In all, he has collected 26 career medals in both sports across leagues, districts and states.

"Early on in my career that's why I wanted to run fast," Gonoude said. "I wanted to get a medal and have something to commemorate the hard work I put in and what I gave."

But at some point, his motivation switched gears a bit to something more personal.

"I just think of all of the people that say, 'Hey, Kyle, I saw you in the newspaper. Good race yesterday,'" Gonoude said. "The older I get, the more pride I get for my family name. I have pride and respect for where I'm from and what my name is.

"I'm beginning to realize how much people care that I'm doing well and they like to see that I'm doing well. It's really nice to get recognition from people. They are like, 'Oh hey I saw you.' I may not know their names, which I probably should."

Growing up, Gonoude became accustomed to team sport like football, ones that require a great deal of teamwork. But the switch to cross country and track and field put more pressure on him to succeed individually. That's why he enjoys running so much.

"I love how you have to rely on no one, and I can only rely on myself to perform well," Gonoude said. "There is no piggy-backing or relying on other people. My success depends on myself. I love that because I put in a lot of hard work and I like to see my success come out of that.

"I like to think that running is one of the most pure forms of competition because it's your body versus someone else's body."

Gonoude reports to DeSales University for cross country camp on August 16, a date that officially begins the next chapter of his life.

"I'm really excited," Gonoude said. "It's running all year round. I'll be running with a bunch of other good runners. The coach is cool. The campus is nice. It will be fun."