When Running Becomes more than a Sport, by Kierra Pickard

(L-R: Coleen Helms, Grace, Kierra)

Hello, my name is Kierra Pickard, a senior varsity cross country and track runner at Berks Catholic High School. This article however is not about me, but rather about one of the most special individuals I ever had the pleasure of knowing, Grace Hornickle. For those of you who didn’t know Grace, she was a member of both the cross country and track teams at Berks Catholic, a member of the National Honor Society, involved with multiple school clubs, and most importantly a wonderful friend. Grace passed away this past year. Losing her impacted the Berks Catholic community, as well as the running community. Grace’s intelligence, artistic ability, witty humor, and dedication to her passions are what drew others to be her friend. Friends of Grace knew her as someone to lean on and someone who would always be there for you. Whether it was in the classroom, the cross country course, or anywhere else, Grace was supportive of those around her.

I had the pleasure of knowing Grace from kindergarten through junior year of high school. We ran cross country together from fifth through tenth grade. Grace became our cross country team manager during our junior year of high school. I’ll never forget the way she encouraged me that year during races. Wherever I seemed to be struggling on the course, Grace was there, saying the exact right thing to get me through the race. Whether it was a “you got this”, or a “come on Kierra I know you can go faster than that”, she always said the right thing.

This year the Berks Catholic girls cross country team has decided to dedicate our season to Grace. We are hopeful of winning another district championship in her honor. Regardless, the team will be doing other things throughout the year for Grace. This year’s Berks Catholic cross country team warmup shirt this year will be purple, Grace’s favorite color, and will be worn proudly throughout the season by both the girls and boys teams. Some members of the girl’s team wear bracelets as a constant reminder of her, others write her name on their arms before races. At the district championship this year, our team will wear purple ribbons in our hair, and purple butterfly tattoos on our cheeks so that a part of Grace is there with us. Two annual awards were created as another way to maintain Grace’s legacy. One is given to the senior member of the BC cross country team with the highest GPA, in honor of Grace’s intelligence. Another is awarded to the member of the girl’s BC cross country team who embodies the attributes that defined Grace: hardworking, dedicated, compassionate, supportive, determined, and selfless; it is known as the Grace Hornickle Spirit Award.

Grace will be a member of our senior night this year, as this would have been her senior season. For those of you supporting the cross country community at the District 3 cross country meet at Big Springs High School this year, consider wearing purple for Grace. Grace will be our “why” this season, forever my why, and forever our friend.