Spotlight: Bakken to run track, cross country at St. Francis

Rochelle senior Katherine Bakken will compete in both track and cross country at The University of St. Francis next year. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Rochelle senior seeking to study nursing

Katherine Bakken knew that The University of St. Francis was the school for her only moments after the Rochelle senior walked onto campus for the first time. When Bakken graduates Rochelle Township High School this spring, she’ll be taking both her track and field talents and her cross country talents to the Fighting Saints next year.

“I’m really interested to see how much I can improve on what I’ve already done,” Bakken said. “I’m excited to show what it means to be a Hub… My coaches have really brought a lot of wisdom to me and they’ve instilled what it means to be a better runner. I know that’s helped me push to where I’m at right now… The campus really felt like home and it felt like a place where I wanted to be.”

Bakken qualified for sectionals three times as a member of the Rochelle cross country program, helping lead the Lady Hubs to a top-6 sectional finish during her sophomore season. Bakken medaled in the NIB-12 Conference Championships this season, and she finished her cross country career with a personal-best 3-mile time of 18:17.5 at the 2017 Freeport Invitational.

“Katherine was a good leader for us and she’s build to compete at the next level,” Rochelle head cross country coach John Dobbs said. “She’s going to step in and help that program right away with her dedication and her prowess… She’s having a great year and with her dedication, St. Francis is really going to like having her on the team.”

Bakken reached the IHSA Class 2A State Championships in the 3200-meter run with the Rochelle track and field program her junior season. She advanced to the 2019 Illinois Top Times State Championships in the same race this year, and she’s seeking to make the outdoor state championships for a second consecutive season at the IHSA Class 2A Rochelle Sectional on Thursday.

“Watching Katherine grow as an athlete has been a highlight of my coaching career for the past four years,” Rochelle head girls track coach Alison Vrana said. “She has really grown into a leader of our team. The younger girls look up to her, and she has modeled physical strength, but more importantly, she has modeled mental toughness. Her tenacity on and off the track sets her apart from the average athlete.”

Bakken said she plans to study nursing at St. Francis in hopes of pursuing a career in geriatric medicine. The senior is the third Rochelle student-athlete to sign to play two sports this year, joining Mason DeLille and Eddie Villalobos.

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