By Dan Arritt     10/29/2014

Most high school juniors insist they look nothing like they did as freshmen.

Katie Caya is no different.

But the transformation Caya has experienced over the last two years at Rosary High School goes far beyond the usual changes of adolescence.

She came to Rosary as a basketball player good enough to make varsity as a freshman, but is on pace to leave as the most decorated girls’ distance runner in school history.

In her first season running cross-country, Caya has already elevated herself to the top of the Trinity League, winning the league preview meet earlier this month and placing 15th at the Orange County Championships two weeks ago, the top finisher among Trinity League participants.

“I love the sport,” she said of distance running. “I love the rush of it.”

That wasn’t the case two years ago, when she went out for track and field following her freshman basketball season. She didn’t have much fun.

To emphasize that point, Caya recently posted a pair of photos side by side on her Twitter account. On the left is a shot of her running track as a freshman. On the right is a picture of Caya running cross-country this fall.

Caya appears uncomfortable in the earlier photo, as if bothered by every stride.

“I think I was just angry that I was racing,” Caya said. “I was like, ‘This is tiring. Why am I doing this to myself?’ “

The second photo communicated a completely different attitude. Caya appears intense, focused and full of energy.

“My intensity is way different now,” she said. “I feel a lot more determined.”

I got my best time and so I was extremely excited. I was like, ‘I can do this!’

Caya will get another chance to hold down her top spot at the Trinity League finals Nov. 7 at Central Park in Huntington Beach.

“It’s been phenomenal so far,” Rosary coach Nick Mosey said of Caya’s first season in cross-country. “It’s everything we could have hoped for.”

Mosey knew Caya was an exceptional athlete when he “stole” her from the girls’ basketball team two years ago. What he never imagined was how quickly and how high she’d rise in the sport.

“She came out for track and she improved a lot in the 3,200, so we kind of had a feeling she was going to be pretty good in cross-country too,” Mosey said. “I didn’t think she’d come out and win Trinity League Preview and be top 15 in the county right off the bat, but she has taken to it very quickly and she’s learning rapidly.”

Even the competition has been caught off guard.

“She kind of came out of nowhere,” said JSerra coach Marty Dugard. “I didn’t pay any attention to her until track season last year. She’s come a long way in the last year. She’s going to do some great things in the next 1  years.”

Caya said it was at last spring’s Orange County Championships in track and field that things really began to click for her. She finished fourth in the freshman and sophomore 3,200-meter race, crossing the line in 11 minutes and 19 seconds, which would have been good enough for 12th in the varsity race.

“I got my best time and so I was extremely excited,” she said. “I was like, ‘I can do this!’”

Now she not only does it, but is the best the Trinity League has to offer.