Written by Matt Johns for the Cleveland State Athletic Department
The Cleveland State cross country team will look to put the final touches on a groundbreaking season this weekend as the team competes at the Horizon League Championship in Rochester, Michigan. The Vikings will look to improve on an eighth-place finish a year ago.
The Vikings are coming off a first-place finish Oct. 13 at the Jenna Strong Fall Classic, their second top finish of the season (Lock Haven Invitational). Also on the team's resume are two second-place finishes at the Friendship Invitational and Disney Cross Country Classic.
Head Coach Joe Jaketic accredits the success of the team to faster target times in practice and competition between teammates. Drills have been much the same as years past, but a more talented team has pushed the runners to work harder, said senior Karen Barrientos.
"If one person is running faster one day, it pushes us to go after that person," Barrientos said.
Barrientos has found herself leading the pack for much of the 2017 season, finishing within the top-three runners three times this season. She set the CSU record with a 17:59 5k time at the Jenna Strong Fall Classic.
As the team looks forward to the Horizon League Championship, Jaketic said the team is "excited and enthusiastic" to compete. He said the team has a new attitude and motivation heading into the meet due to the success it has had this season.
Senior runner Samantha Butterbaugh feels the team is set to continue its run of dominance.
"We are on this big high right now and I feel like we could keep going if we just keep doing what we're doing now and working hard," Butterbaugh said.
The team's best finish in Horizon League Championship history is fourth, and Jaketic wants to do better.
"We are going to have to work hard, and they know that," Jaketic said. "They work hard in practice, and that is going to have to transfer over to the meet."
The Horizon League Championship is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 28 at 12 p.m.