Gonda inspires teammates on and off course


Photo courtesy Shaun Gonda

   Running competitively is not for the faint of heart. A nice, easy practice for the Sheridan High School senior and cross country star, Sarah Gonda, begins with a mile warm-up jog and ends with a three, four, even five mile loop around the city of Sheridan. Her favorite practices are hill runs. The relentless push of her body is grueling, but when she completes them, the self-assuredness and pride makes it all worth it. 

   Gonda has been involved in cross country since she was in sixth grade, “At first it was because my parents made me, and then when I realized how much I loved it, it was my own personal choice to do it every year after that,” said Gonda.  If she had the chance, Gonda would run cross country in college, but as of yet, no such opportunity has presented itself, and she is not too worried about it.

   Gonda emphasizes the impact cross country has had on her life, especially the teammates she has surrounding her. Some of her favorite memories were made on runs with the other girls on the team. Long talks and the sharing of stories, as well as inside jokes and team-wide anecdotes, make all of the hard work worth it. Gonda is a team captain, and though a leader for her teammates, she finds her own inspiration in the other members of her team. “Katie Turpin and Danika Palmer have definitely had the biggest impact on my motivation to keep going,” said Gonda. “Katie Turpin has gone through a lot and she just keeps pushing. I really do look up to her a lot. Danika is there for everyone on the cross team. She will build you up whenever you need it. I respect her so much because of the relationships she is able to build with anyone and everyone.” 

   Gonda stresses that her coaches, Arthur Baures and Isaac VanDyke are integral to her success. “In a lot of ways VanDyke and Baures are the perfect complements to each other because they’re very different people,” said Gonda. “For both of them, though, I think their biggest strength is how much they believe in and care about each of us.”

   Gonda draws a lot of her strength from those around her. Her mother has been an incredible influence on her, teaching her lessons about strength and perseverance that she uses in all aspects of her life. When she was young, Gonda’s parents pushed her not only to join cross country but also band. Fast forward to the present, and her music is one of the most important things to her. The best times for her include playing various instruments and pushing herself musically. Though Gonda does not yet know where she wants to attend college, she intends to pursue a major in music performance. As far as a future career goes, she plans to travel the world playing music with different groups. 

   As Gonda is in her senior year, she has made goals to set herself up for success post-high school. Her cross country goal is to grow in her mental resilience, not only for herself, but for her teammates who she knows work hard for her. A teammate, sophomore Sage Gradinaru, notices how Gonda pushes herself. “I’m always impressed with how much work Sarah puts in,” said Gradinaru.

   If she could change one thing about the cross country program, Gonda would try to bring more recognition to the fact that the female athletes have a harder time mentally and physically, and she would like to see better recognition of that. Overarchingly, Gonda wants to end her senior year knowing that she applied herself in every aspect and achieved everything that she could with her hard work.

   Gonda is the daughter of Kate and Shaun Gonda.