The bond New Oxford High runner Kaylee Kubisiak formed with her future teammates during two campus visits at Bridgewater College in Virginia was special.

The unity of the tight-knit group reminded her a lot of her own Colonial cross country and track teams, which she will relish in her final experience this spring.

Kubisiak's relationship with Bridgewater head coach Brian Flynn, who trekked from Virginia to John Rudy County Park near York to see Kubisiak capture a YAIAA championship, helped make her college decision a simple one.

And so on Thursday at New Oxford High School, Kubisiak finalized her future plans by signing her NCAA letter of intent.

"It's official now, so I can sleep a little bit better at night," said Kubisiak, the 2011 All-Area Female Cross Country Runner of the Year. "Once I knew (my decision) was Bridgewater, it was a relief. This is kind of the closure to it."

Kubisiak sported a mustard yellow Bridgewater hoodie as her parents, Lisa and Paul Kubisiak, sandwiched her at the signing table. Kubisiak credits both parents for her success in the sport. Lisa Kubisiak, whom New Oxford coach Colby Frantz describes as the "team mom," attended every one of Kaylee's meets this season.

Paul Kubisiak noticed during his daughter's sophomore season that cross country had become her true labor of love. Through her commitment and extra mileage, it became clear cross country was more than just a hobby. So, he routinely stocked up on fruits and vegetables during grocery stops.

Kubisiak, still receiving interest from colleges across the Eastern Seaboard, was inundated with a drawer-load of recruiting mail last fall. Narrowing her choices from a list that was originally akin to a 7-year-old's Christmas gift list in length, Kubisiak selected Bridgewater over Shippensburg and Marywood universities. While on winter vacation, Kubisiak gave a verbal pledge to Bridgewater.

"It wasn't just the cross country team that sold me. I fell in love with all of the different aspects of the college," Kubisiak said. "When I kept walking around and seeing the buildings and the dorms and meeting professors, it just clicked. I knew it was the right place for me."

Frantz, who spent three years grooming Kubisiak's talent, believes Flynn and NCAA Division III Bridgewater are getting a steal in his top runner.

"When I met Coach Flynn, I told him that they're getting a tremendous athlete," Frantz said. "In my three years of coaching her, Kaylee has gotten better and better and better. The school is getting one of the best we have to offer here, academically and athletically."

Last fall, Kubisiak met a slew of lofty expectations both she and Frantz had ironed out before the season. Frantz wanted Kubisiak to take some ownership of a greenhorn-laden team still absorbing the nuances of pack running.

She did. Kubisiak helped meld a patchwork group into a cohesive cross country unit while winning a Hanover area-best 20 dual-meet and invitational races. She clocked 18 minutes, 58 seconds at the Don Stoner Invitational on Oct.8, a harbinger of things to come.

Kubisiak raced to a 17th-place finish in the PIAA Class AAA Girls' Championship while churning out a time of 19:10.

Flynn is entering his third season at Bridgewater's helm. The program had tapped already into the YAIAA market. Molly Smith, a junior on the Eagles, shined at York Suburban.

Kubisiak was one of three Colonial track members to ink with NCAA schools on Wednesday. Triple, high, and long jumper Jamilla Janneh signed with NCAA Division I' Temple University and hurlder Madisen Slagle penned with Mansfield University.

zsmart @eveningsun.com