Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — Way back on Oct. 27, 2018, a visibly exhausted Elayna Gunnoe fell to the turf at Jackson High School with tears streaming down her face.
Gunnoe, alongside her teammates, had just played 100 minutes of soccer and eventually pulled out a 1-0 double overtime win over Fairfield Union in a Division II district final — the program’s second consecutive district championship crown.
Over her four years at Unioto, if there’s one game that sticks out in Gunnoe’s mind, it’s that one.
“It was something that the team had trained for all year and it was honestly one of the most gruesome games that I’ve ever played in my life,” Gunnoe said. “Me and my other three defenders played every second of the over 100-minute soccer game and our girls came out with a win in the second overtime. It was amazing.”
Gunnoe, of course, has also spent her time helping Unioto’s track and field program fight for league titles while participating in the hurdles, high jump and other events.
When she graduates, she won’t have to give up either of her passions. Tuesday morning, she signed with West Liberty University, where she’ll have the chance to compete in both sports.
“I’m very blessed to be able to continue to play soccer and run track in college. It’s been a goal of mine ever since I was younger to make it to a Division II school for soccer,” Gunnoe said. “But since I’m able to do both of my sports, it’s more than I could ever ask for. I chose West Liberty because they have speech pathology, which is what I want to study. The girls were super-welcoming, the coaches for both soccer and track are awesome, and the campus isn’t too big but also isn’t too small.”
While she starts her journey to becoming a speech pathologist with a focus on special needs children, Gunnoe knows it will be a tough path to follow. Balancing a collegiate sport with studies can take adjusting. Balancing two collegiate sports with that workload is even harder.
“It won’t be easy, but I’m excited to do it,” Gunnoe said. “Soccer practices are typically in the morning and track practices are in the evenings, so I’m just going to have to make sure that I use my free time wisely to keep up with my school work. Plusm, I know my teams will help me since each sport competes to see who can have the highest GPA.”
Gunnoe joins a soccer program that finished 6-9-4 last fall with a 6-5-2 mark in the Mountain East Conference. The Hilltoppers’ track and field program has started this spring on the right foot with dates at Charlotte, West Virginia and Slippery Rock.
Not too long from now, Gunnoe will be contributing to those same programs … with her supporters right where they’ve always been: behind her.
“My family and my supporters mean everything to me,” she said. “My family has been on my side, helping me with both of my sports in any way they can. Sometimes at track meets, you’ll see my dad videoing me if it’s a jump or me hurdling to help me and show me what I can improve on. My mom keeps my times to see how much I’ve improved. I’ve been blessed with amazing teammates on both [Unioto’s soccer and track] teams. We’ve proven that, together, we are unstoppable. They’ve pushed me to my limits and have taught me how to grow as a player. And to everyone else, especially Ray [Fischels] and Corby [Free] … I don’t know what I’d do without them and their amazing photography skills.”