Girls Track: Bakken finishes freshman season strong at St. Francis University

Former Rochelle distance runner Katherine Bakken is making an early impact for the St. Francis University track and field program. (Photo courtesy of SFU athletics)

Former RTHS distance standout closes indoor season with personal-best time

Katherine Bakken’s freshman track and field season with St. Francis University may have stopped short, but the former Rochelle Township High School distance standout has quickly become one of the program’s strongest long-distance event runners.

After helping the St. Francis women’s cross country team qualify for the NAIA National Championships, Bakken laced up for the indoor track and field season, competing in the 3000-meter run and the 5000-meter run. Her top finishes include taking third in the 3000-meter run at the North Central College Snow Day Invitational on Jan. 24.

“My experience with the USF track and field team has been phenomenal,” Bakken said. “My teammates are so supportive of me and they share the same passion for running. I have enjoyed cheering my teammates on during meets the most because we’re all so invested in our races. I’ve improved my strength as a runner, and I’d really like to work on leg speed and getting a better kick toward the end of my races.”

Bakken set her collegiate-best time in the 5000-meter run during the NAIA National Championships from March 5-7, finishing with a time of 17:57.37. Her top time in the 3000-meter run came during the GVSU Mike Lints Alumni Open on Feb. 1, when she placed 14th overall in 10:35.54. Bakken’s best 1600-meter run performance was a 5:37.55 at the Lewis Invitational on Jan. 10, when she took sixth place overall.

Amid coronavirus concerns, the NAIA canceled the remainder of its spring athletic events including the outdoor track and field season, ultimately cutting Bakken’s freshman campaign shot. The news was upsetting for Bakken and her teammates, but the former Lady Hub said she plans to use the additional offseason time to run on her own.

“I was really upset that I won’t be able to have more time to run with the seniors on my team,” Bakken said. “I was even more disappointed that I won’t get to see what would’ve happened during the outdoor season, since I set a new personal record during my last indoor race… For next season, I’d like to not underestimate myself as much. When I competed at nationals, I was focused on running my race and not worrying about my time. The extra offseason time will be challenging since I won’t get to run with my teammates as much, but I will stay motivated.”

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