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The Royal Oak Shrine boys and girls cross country teams celebrate their championships at the Catholic League meet. (Submitted Photo)

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Forget ordering a venti at Starbucks.

Or setting the alarm on your cell phone to blare “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor or “Black Widow” by Iggy Izalea.

There are other ways to wake up. Just ask Gabby Schmidt, a senior captain on the Royal Oak Shrine cross country team.

“We had a 6 a.m. run and I didn’t want to get up at all,” said Schmidt. “I was really grumpy.”

Grumpy or not, Coach Wright Wilson had the run scheduled during the team’s pre-season camp in Lewiston, which is located in northeast lower Michigan.

“We were running on dirt roads. Huge trees lined the roads. The whole team stayed together. The more we ran, the better I felt. It turned into just an awesome morning,” said Schmidt.

There’s no doubt that distance running can be a chore. There are times that it is nothing but hard work wrapped in a sweat-soaked shirt. But there are also rewards. Sometimes it is the pure accomplishment of pushing the odometer. Other times it’s a bagel and a Granny Smith apple. Or maybe a medal. But once in a while, it might be a breathtaking realization as the rising sun seeps through branches and the only sounds are of waking birds, pounding feet and the laughter of teammates.

There were plenty of medals passed out two Saturdays ago at the Catholic League meet held on the rigorous course at Kensington Metropark. Both the girls and boys teams from Shrine finished first in the Division III-IV meet.

Schmidt finished fifth overall in 22:03 to lead her team to a first-place finish. Following were teammates Hailie Robinson, 10th in 22:44.0; Clara Lichtenberg, 12th in 22:52.0; Madelyne Luddy, 21st in 24:07.0; and Irene Dooley, 22nd, in 24:08.0. Also running for Shrine were Julia Halkey, 26th, 24:42.0; and Jeanne Lampertius, 33rd, 26:11.0.

The Shrine girls had 70 points. Second-place Wixom St. Catherine finished with 74 and Riverview Gabriel Richard had 83. Following were Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes 86, Allen Park Cabrini 100, Bishop Foley 123 and Marine City Cardinal Mooney 159.

Senior captain Kyle Pawloski led the boys by finishing fourth overall in 19:50.5. Matt Guirey was Shrine’s second runner. He came in fifth in 20:03.0. Following were Conor O’Hara, seventh in 20:10.0; Alec Moylan, 12th in 21:08.0; and Tyler Ramierez, 15th in 21:26.0. Also running were Declan Flood, 16th, 21:31.0; and Brendan Battle, 22nd, 22:33.0.

Shrine finished with 43 team points. Second-place Riverview Gabriel Richard had 44, while third-place Cabrini had 45 points. Bishop Foley came in fourth with 89 points.

The outstanding finish by Pawloski was the result of many years of training. He started running in the fourth grade.

“It all came together for Kyle at the Catholic League meet,” said Wilson. “He ran an amazing race on a tough course at Kensington. It was good to see him rewarded for his years of hard work.”

This past Saturday, Shrine competed in a Division 4 regional meet hosted by Ann Arbor Huron at Willow Metropark in New Boston.

The Shrine girls finished third to qualify as a team. Schmidt came in second place in 21:13.69 to lead the Knights. The Shrine boys team did not qualify for the state meet. However, O’Hara was eighth in 19:05.0, good enough to make it to MIS as an individual. Pawloski came in 16th. The top 15 qualify for the state meet.

The cross country finals will be held Saturday at the Michigan International Speedway.

Still, Pawloski has to be proud of the fact that he’d been to the state meet his first three seasons in high school.

He’s also proud of a pivotal moment in running that occurred not on a dirt road in northern Michigan or on some hill in a metropark, but on the track at Bishop Foley last spring.

“I was running the 1600. I was probably fifth heading into the final lap but I just told myself I wanted to win the race. I just went for it on the last lap and I finished first in 5:03. That is still my best time,” said Pawloski. “It was a breakthrough moment for me.

“I just love to run,” he concluded.

What better way to end this story?

Last Updated: 10/28/2014 9:00:43 PM EST

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