When Kayla Glova was in middle school, she was more interested in being a cheerleader than running track.
When she didn’t make the Crestdale Middle School football cheerleading squad in seventh and eighth grades, she turned to track. Glova made a similar decision as a Providence High freshman, choosing to run cross-country for the first time.
“I actually almost didn’t run cross-country at all because I still wanted to be a cheerleader at Providence,” said Glova, whose older sister, Meghan was on the Providence cross-country team at the time. “But my mom (Christine) and my sister talked to me about how much they like cross-country and how all the girls on the team were so nice. I didn’t think much of my decision to run at the time. I just thought ‘Okay, I’ll go run.’ But, I believe everything happens for a reason.”
Glova helped the talented Providence cross-country team, breaking 19 minutes in a 3.1-mile race four times in her first high school season.
As a Providence freshman she finished fourth at the Southwestern conference meet, ninth at the 4A West Regional and 20th at the 4A state meet (with a season-best time of 18:36.61). Glova also finished seventh in the Wendys’ Invitational with a time of 18:52.
“I was really surprised how fast I got that first season,” Glova said. “I remember my first race, and first 5K ever was the Providence Invitational and I ran low 20s (20:08). Coach (Kurt Niedenzu) came up to me right after the race and showed me a chart that said my pace could lead me to about 19:06. He said he thought I could run that by the end of my freshman year. I thought he was crazy at the time. But I actually beat that time.”
Glova has made a steady progression through her Providence cross-country and track career, consistently posting top 10 finishes. Most of that time, she also has been chasing her all-state teammates’ Bianca Bishop (now running at N.C. State) and Grace Sullivan (now running at East Carolina).
“Looking back, I think Kayla would look at Bianca and Grace and think she couldn’t keep up with them,” said Niedenzu. “But in the long run, that’s what drove her to get better and now she sets the pace at practice.”
Glova is also driven by her family’s tradition. Kayla is the second of four sisters. As she says, she was first interested in following the footsteps of her older sister, Meghan, who was the first in the family to run at Providence.
Now, her younger sister, Lauren is a sophomore on the team with Kayla. Even their youngest sister, Krysta, 10, a rising sixth-grader who is having success in 5K events, hopes to one day join the Panther cross-country team.
“We have a lot of girls on the Providence team who have grown wanting to be as good as the older sister(s),” Niedenzu said. “Kayla is another part of that tradition. Hopefully, it will also drive her younger sisters.”
Glova, 17, enters her senior season as the No. 1 runner on the team, which is ranked No. 5 in the state in the ncrunners.com, preseason poll.
Junior Lindsay Lanier, sophomore, Sarah Parrish and senior, Claire Strickler, all should run under 19 minutes this season, according to Niedenzu.
Several younger Providence runners could also emerge, such as sophomores Catherine Halley, Jan Hu and Meghan Noon.
Niedenzu says Glova is now the leader, and believes she can contend for a conference, regional and state title.
Glova says her main motivation this summer, as she logged 400-500 miles of running, has been her final race last season at the state meet. In miserable conditions, with the temperatures in the 30s and raining, Glova ran one of her worst races, finishing 33rd overall (19:44.07).
“That has really motivated me. My best time last year was worse than my best time freshman year. I don’t worry about it a lot, but I do try to learn from it and get better,” she said.
She says she hopes to break 18 minutes. She also hopes to be part of conference and regional championships with her team. The Panthers had captured conference titles in each of her high school seasons, but finished second to Myers Park at regionals last year.
Glova also hopes to earn the chance to keep running in college. She has a 4.3 grade-point average. But, no matter how her final high school year plays out, Glova can’t help but laugh at how her running career started.
“I’m definitely glad I chose to run cross-country, instead of doing cheerleading,” said Glova. “Even if I had never made varsity or had any success, I just love running in general and I run every day. It’s something I can do for the rest of my life.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Charlotte Girls’ Cross-Country runners to watch
▪ Kiley Aymor, Ardrey Kell, Jr.: Knights’ standout had a breakout sophomore season finishing as SoMeck8 conference runner-up, fourth at the Wendy’s Invitational, sixth at 4A West Regionals, 15th at states.
▪ Josie Jordan, Ardrey Kell, So.: Also established herself as a contender last season as a freshman who finished third at the SoMeck8 conference championships, seventh at the 4A West Regional, 25th at states.
▪ Katie Eiselt, Myers Park, Jr.: Back to help lead a talented Mustang lineup after finishing 12th at states, ninth at 4A West Regionals last season.
▪ Storey Gourley, Myers Park, Jr.: Another strong, Mustang runner looks to continue her ascent after finishing 18th at states, 13th at regionals as a sophomore.
▪ Lindsay Lanier, Providence, Jr.: Also had a strong sophomore season finishing fifth at the SoMeck8 conference championships, 17th at 4A West Regional, a season-best 19:09 to finish 10th in the loaded, Providence Invitational field.
▪ 41st annual Wendy’s Invitational: Oct. 3 at McAlpine Park.
▪ SoMeck8 Conference Championships: Oct. 21 at McAlpine Park; SW4A Championships: Oct. 22 at McAlpine Park.
▪ 4A West Regional, 3A Midwest Regional: Oct. 31 at McAlpine Park.
▪ NCISAA State Championships: Oct. 30 at McAlpine Park.
▪ NCHSAA State Championships: Nov. 7 at Redmond Park in Kernersville.
Compiled by Jay Edwards