University of Richmond cross country runner junior Robert Gunia won the annual Walt Disney World 10k race with a time of 32:42 on Jan. 7, in Orlando, Florida.
Gunia, who plans to major in political science and minor in sociology, competed against 6,197 runners in the race. He was also the first Spider to run and win the Disney 10k. The 6.2-mile race took the runners through all four parks and resorts at Disney World. Disney characters cheered on the runners during the race — Goofy and Mickey Mouse greeted Gunia at the finish line.
“Crossing the finish line was a feeling I’ve never felt before," Gunia said. "It was just this rush of adrenaline through my whole body with excitement, joy and different emotions."
Originally, Gunia and his family went to Disney World for his cousin, Caitlyn, who suffers from diamond blackfan anemia, a rare blood condition that primarily affects the bone marrow. Their trip happened to overlap with the week of the race. Gunia said he ultimately decided to run the race for Caitlyn.
“Caitlyn is our family’s sweet reminder of what’s important in life,” said Catherine Gunia, Robert’s mom. “She is full of smiles and laughter, we all have so much to learn from her,” “Since Caitlyn was diagnosed with DBA, she goes to MCV every other Tuesday for blood transfusions. Robbie winning the 10k brought even more smiles that will be with her through all of her transfusions.”
Gunia and his family took the celebration to their favorite park, Magic Kingdom, after the race. They spent the day in “the most magical place on earth” going on rides and eating good food, he said.
In Gunia’s time as a Spider, he has run in all five races in the fall 2021 regular season. He completed the NCAA Southeast Regional Championship with a personal best 10k time of 32:36. In the Spider Alumni Open race, he finished 22nd in the 5K on Sept. 4.
Before coming to UR, Gunia was a part of the cross country team at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina, where he competed in six meets.
Gunia grew up just a short hour away from Richmond in Fredericksburg, Virginia where he attended Courtland High School. There, he ran cross country along with indoor and outdoor track. His accomplishments during high school include placing second in the Battlefield District Championships and 22nd in Virginia High School Leauge State Championships.
This season, the men's cross country team looks to compete in the BMI Invitational, where Gunia will run the 3k or the 5k. He then plans to qualify for the conference championship.
“It was really great to see Robbie crossing the line first in such a big and recognizable race,” said junior Riley Fletcher, Robert’s teammate. “I wish the whole team could have been there to see it. First place out of several thousand runners is a pretty cool accomplishment.”
Contact sports writer Lexie Moskovit at email@example.com.
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