Give her an inch and she’ll run a mile.
Or five miles. Every day, every week for the past four years.
Hood River Valley High School senior Christy Paul knows what it takes to be the best.
The 2001 Class 4A state cross-country champion also knows what it’s like to be the best.
“I kind of let the pressure get to me after winning at state,” said Paul, who is competing in her final high-school district meet this weekend in Bend.
“My main focus was to win, and I wanted to do anything I could to win. But that’s when it stopped being fun,” she said.
“I now have a new outlook on running, and I do it more to improve my times and my health than to win every race.”
That’s not to say she couldn’t win most of the races she enters. After all, Paul is no stranger to the front of the pack.
In addition to winning the 2001 state cross-country title, she placed third in 2000 and fifth in 2002. She also won dual district track titles in 2001 and 2002, and grabbed a fourth and a fifth place at last year’s state track meet.
“I’ve still got some drive left,” she said with a coy grin. “It would be nice to win a district title and go to state. But I wouldn’t be as disappointed this year if I didn’t make it. This year is more about competing and having fun.”
Paul entered Friday’s first day of Intermountain Conference competition as the No. 2 seed in both the 1,500- and 3,000-meter events.
But Paul has never been one to monitor the competition. She knows that seedings mean nothing when you possess more desire and more experience than every other runner in the field.
“Christy can go out and run a state-qualifying time and think she ran poorly,” coach Tom Moline said of Paul, who has yet to peak this spring. “She always believes she has room to improve, which is what you need to compete at an elite level.”
A Division I college level. At an Ivy League school, no less.
Paul has chosen to attend Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., where she will begin studying in the fall. She also plans to compete with the No. 12-ranked track team in the nation.
“Cornell is an amazing university,” she said, glowing about her soon-to-be home in upstate New York. “I just had a feeling when I stepped on campus that I was going to be there for four years.”
What pleased Paul most about Cornell was that she related well to all the people she met.
“The coaches, the athletes. Pretty much everyone,” she said. “I also like the fact that there are no athletic scholarships at Cornell. It makes you feel more comfortable with the rest of the team. Everyone is there because they want to be, not because they have to be.”
Paul is looking at next fall as a new chapter in her book of life experiences. And while most of her endeavors will be new, this fiery competitor is likely to hit the ground running.
“I will be starting over, essentially,” she said. “It will be all new people and all new experiences. There are a couple girls from Oregon who I’ve met, but I’m looking at it as a fresh start.”
Paul plans to put as much time into her school work as she does with running, but she still hasn’t decided what area to specialize in.
“I’m interested in so many things that I haven’t made any decisions yet,” she said. “I’m going to start out in environmental science, but I probably won’t choose one discipline for a couple years.”
A 4.0 student throughout high school, Paul was admitted to Cornell for her academic prowess as well as her running resume — one that was padded at Tuesday’s Evening of Excellence, where she was named the HRVHS Female Athlete of the Year.
“Winning the Athlete of the Year is the biggest honor I could have ever imagined,” she said. “I was pretty surprised. A year ago, I may have said winning the state title was my biggest high-school accomplishment. But not now.”
Always humble, Paul chooses her words as carefully as a professional athlete. She never wants to take too much credit, nor does she want to leave anyone out.
She is the quintessential “class act” who walks away from her high-school running career as one of the most decorated athletes ever to walk the halls of Hood River Valley High.
Her cross-country and track school records may never be broken, her competitive drive may never be matched, and her legacy will never be forgotten.
“What I don’t think some people know about Christy is that she is such a good teammate,” said Moline, who has coached her for the past three months.
“She is always the first one to cheer on her teammates and congratulate them on a job well done. She’s just a great kid.”
HRV girls cross-country coach Kristen Uhler couldn’t agree more.
“Where Christy is at right now in her life says a lot about how her parents raised her,” Uhler said of Greg and Nancy Paul. “They have always allowed Christy to be Christy, which has shaped her into a wonderful, well-balanced adult.”
But, despite what her many admirers say, Paul still has a long list of goals set for herself. She doesn’t want any special treatment, but at the same time, she realizes that she has something to give back.
“I would like to help out the youth programs here someday,” she said. “It disappoints me what’s going on with the budget cuts, and I’d like to help make sure there is a cross-country team next year.”
Paul says she wishes she could be closer to Hood River next fall, but also says she will never forget her hometown.
“I’ll be back,” she said with a smile. “Just not for a little while.”