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First-year runner sprints into action for Wildcats

Nick Martinez-Esquibel

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First-year runner Alex Burkhart competes in the steeplechase at the San Francisco State Distance Carnival on April 4. Photo courtesy of Alex Burkhart

First-year runner Alex Burkhart is becoming a force on the track faster than you can say the name of her hometown, Rancho Cucamonga.

Coming off her time at Los Osos High School, Burkhart has taken advantage of her opportunities and excelled in the steeplechase event for the Wildcats this spring.

Steeplechase is a 3,000-meter race that includes hurdles and a water jump where the runners have to clear a hurdle into a pit of water.

“For her to do what she’s done thus far is pretty exceptional,” said Gary Towne, the track and field head coach.

Burkhart has already etched her name into the Chico State record book not only once, but twice this season.

In her first meet as a Wildcat in early March, she ran the fifth-fastest steeplechase in Wildcat history, timing in at 10:55.76 and beating the competition by more than eight seconds.

Burkhart was unsure of how she would do at first because she has never run hurdles before, she said.

Her time was the fastest at any NCAA level nationwide at the time and also earned her the California Collegiate Athletic Association Women’s Track and Field Athlete of the Week in March.

“I was not expecting to do that well,” Burkhart said, “but I’m hungry for more.”

Her hunger for more success showed when she competed in the Bay Area on April 3 and achieved a second record.

In San Francisco, Burkhart beat her own existing time by just over 23 seconds, finishing at 10:32.58. Her time moved her up from fifth-best to second-best run by any Wildcat in history.

“Of course her time was surprising,” said Olivia Watt, a junior teammate. “But if you’ve seen how hard she’s worked from the beginning, it wasn’t surprising to me at all.”

Burkhart is carrying her success and competitive nature over from cross-country in the fall, where she earned All-California Collegiate Athletic Association and All-West Region honors.

Running cross-country in the fall also made connecting with the team a little easier.

“It’s superhard coming in as a freshman and to make a name for yourself because our team is so deep,” Watt said. “But she did just that.”

Watt said she first met Burkhart when she visited Chico last year on a recruiting trip.

“Right away, I could tell she was a hard worker,” Watt said. “Honestly, within the first couple minutes of meeting her, I could tell she was going to be a really cool teammate.”

Burkhart chose to run for Chico because of the program that Towne has put together over the years, she said.

When she’s not running, Burkhart is studying exercise physiology and plans to be a physical therapist.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have her here,” Towne said, “and excited to see what the future has in store.”

Nick Martinez-Esquibel can be reached at [email protected] or @THENickMartinez on Twitter.

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First-year runner sprints into action for Wildcats