Cross Country: Bakken races to freshman honors at St. Francis University

Former Rochelle student-athlete Katherine Bakken was named the CCAC Freshman of the Year after finishing 10th and helping lead the St. Francis University women's cross country team to a conference championship this season. (Courtesy photo)

RTHS grad earns CCAC Freshman of the Year Award after top-10 performance in conference championship

Katherine Bakken set records as a distance runner with the Rochelle Township High School track and field program, and the former Lady Hub standout ended her high school tenure as one of the top cross country athletes in the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference.

Bakken’s prep success has followed her to the collegiate level, where she currently competes with St. Francis University in both track and cross country. Bakken and the Fighting Saints won the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Women’s Cross Country Championship on Nov. 9, and Bakken earned the CCAC Women’s Cross Country Freshman of the Year honor after finishing 10th out of 139 runners with a time of 19:08.5 in the event.

“I was really surprised,” Bakken said. “I knew it was a possibility but I still didn’t expect to get it. I’m really grateful that I have such an accomplishment to show for all of my hard work so far this season. My experience has been great so far and I really enjoy how close I am with my teammates.”

Bakken and the nationally-ranked St. Francis University women’s cross country team will conclude their season at the NAIA Women’s Cross Country Championships in Vancouver, Washington on Friday, Nov. 22. The Fighting Saints entered this week ranked fifth in the nation after the final NAIA Women’s Cross Country Coaches Poll was released on Nov. 11.

“We all push each other and we are very dedicated to the team,” Bakken said. “I’ve improved my times and I’ve also improved my mental strength. I find myself staying stronger during workouts now than I did in high school. I also enjoy having such talented teammates to look to as role models.”

Bakken has come very close to breaking the 19-minute threshold this season, and she said her goal is to enter 18-minute territory at the national championships later this month. She placed 25th in the Great Lakes Challenge on Oct. 26 with a time of 19:04.9 and she recorded a top-50 finish in the Louisville Classic on Oct. 5 with a time of 19:06.0. Bakken made her collegiate debut in the USF Twilight Invite on Aug. 30 when she took 18th with a time of 19:08.7.

“My goals for next season are to run all of my 5K races under 19 minutes and I hope to run my last race at nationals under 19 minutes this year,” Bakken said.

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