By Adam Schabel
The Cleveland State women’s cross country team has gotten off to a great start this season.
The Vikings opened their 2017 season on Sept. 2 at the Duquesne Duals and four runners finished with under 20 minute 5K times. On top of that, the Vikings also won four of their six dual matchups.
Freshman Anna Brandt, in her first ever collegiate race, finished in 19:05 which was the fastest time of any Cleveland State runner. This was also the fastest time for a freshman in their debut under head coach Joe Jaketic. Sophomore Jessica Finley finished in 19:23 which is a career-best 5K time for her. Karen Barrientos finished the race in 19:34 and Samantha Butterbaugh was the last Viking to finish the race with a time of 19:50.
Brandt finished 12th overall, Finley 16th overall, Barrientos 20th overall and Butterbaugh placed 27th overall.
Cleveland State carried their success from the first race into their second at the Tommy Evans Invite which took place on Sept. 7.
The Vikings placed three runners in the top-15 with under 19-minute 5K times.
Anna Brandt once again stood out as she led the Vikings by finishing the race with a time of 18:27, which was good for sixth overall in the invitational. Karen Barrientos was the next Viking to finish with a time of 18:31, which put her in eighth place. The last Viking to finish was Jessica Finley with a time of 18:36, which put her in 11th place.
Finley and Brandt posted career-best times as did a few freshman. Kylie Scott finished in 19:32 and Abbey Rojeck finished in 20:01 which were all career-best times for the runners.
Cleveland State’s success became contagious as they once again ran well in another tournament. This time it was in the Friendship Invitational which was held on Sept. 16.
The Vikings finished second overall in the tournament just behind Wright State University.
Cleveland State had three runners finish in the top-10 for the first time this season. Barrientos placed third overall in the tournament with a time of 18:45 and was the first Viking to finish the race. Brandt was the second Viking to finish with a time of 18:58 which was good for fourth overall. Barrientos and Brandt both finished with 18-minute 5K times for the second straight race. Finley was the third Viking to finish with a time of 19:02 which placed her seventh overall in the tournament.
The Vikings kept their recent string of success going as they won the Lock Haven Invitational on Sept. 23.
Cleveland State finished 17 points ahead of second place West Chester and compiled 62 total points for the tournament.
The tournament victory was significant and it was not just an ordinary win. This was the first time in head coach Joe Jaketic’s 13-year career that a Vikings team had won a tournament.
Freshman Anna Brandt was happy that she was able to contribute to this special accomplishment.
“I was super excited. I think we were all really excited that we had that opportunity to do that for him. He was very excited when telling us about the results and none of us had any idea that we had done that well,” Brandt said. “We knew that we had all done our best and that we had great races but we didn’t realize how well it went. It was so cool to see how happy he was.”
Senior Karen Barrientos also expressed satisfaction in helping her coach.
“It’s definitely a gratifying experience,” Barrientos said. “He was really excited about it and we are just as enthused as he [was].”
Cleveland State had five runners finish in the top-25 at the invitational.
Barrientos finished sixth overall in the tournament with a 6K time of 22:14. She was four seconds short of tying her career-best 6K time. Brandt finished seventh and posted a time of 22:20 in her first ever collegiate 6K. Jessica Finley finished in eighth place after posting a career-best time of 22:21. The other Vikings who finished in the top-25 included Olivia Hammons and Samantha Butterbaugh. Hammons finished 19th with a time of 23:10 and Butterbaugh finished 22nd with a time of 23:15.
More good news was delivered to the team after they had won the Lock Haven Invitational.
Additionally, Karen Barrientos was named the Horizon League Cross Country Runner of the Week. This is the first time Barrientos has been named the runner of the week in her career and she is the first Viking since 2015 to be given that honor.
“I was stoked,” Barrientos said when she realized she had been given the honor. “I was getting congratulated [by teammates] before I even knew what was going on so that was an awesome experience. That’s when you know you have a great support system.”
Barrientos has finished in the top-three among Cleveland State runners in every race this season. She finished first on the team in the Friendship Invitational as well as in the Lock Haven Invitational.