Kathy Plonka photo

Coeur d’Alene long-distance running standout Kinsey Gomez sees many similarities between her hometown and Corvallis, Ore., site of Oregon State University.

“It’s so green and there are so many places to run,” Gomez, clad in an orange-and-black OSU T-shirt, said as she signed her letter of intent Thursday. “I’m not a big-city girl. I like the small town. It was gorgeous. I like the weather and the parks everywhere.”

Gomez picked OSU over Arizona State and Utah, the other two schools she visited. Most of the Pac-10 schools recruited her, she said.

“I actively pursued a Pac-10 school,” she said.

Gomez, the Gatorade Idaho Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year the past two seasons, captured her third State 5A championship last fall, winning in a time of 19 minutes, 1.92 seconds – more than 30 seconds ahead of the runner-up for a second straight year. She also won a state title as a freshman and was runner-up as a sophomore.

She took 48th at the Foot Locker West Regional championships (19:42) a couple of weeks after state.

Gomez, an honors student who carries a 4.29 grade-point average, will be out to defend state titles in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races in track this spring.

She plans to hand deliver her letter of intent this weekend.

“The coaching staff there was phenomenal,” Gomez said. “They were so hands on. You could visibly see the relationship they had with their athletes. It was a step above everything else. It’s an all-inclusive program. They’re very close to each other.”

Gomez was going to set up a visit up the road at Oregon, but decided not to after visiting Corvallis. She understands Oregon has a richer running history than OSU.

“At first it was my dream to go to a school where competition was the main thing,” she said. “I realized to further myself as an individual and to not grow to hate the sport that I’m signing myself over to do for five years I need to love every single aspect of who I’m surrounding myself with because when you’re around happy people and you’re in a great mood you’re obviously going to perform the best. (OSU) is definitely an up and coming program. I feel like with the addition of some of the girls they’ve brought on this year it’s just going to grow and keep building. I’d love to be a part of something that’s going to blossom into a force to be reckoned with.”

Gomez is considering studying medicine. She’s job shadowing a surgeon for her senior project.

CdA cross country coach Cathy Compton believes OSU is the right spot for Gomez.

“I think it’s the perfect fit,” Compton said. “It’s a great running environment, running town. She’ll be, once again, a leader on the team in a very short amount of time. It’s a win win all the way around. They’ll be lucky to have her on their team and she’ll be lucky to be there.”