Samantha Huerta, a cross-country runner in her third year at Cal State Fullerton, was named women’s cross-country athlete of the week by the Big West on Tuesday. Out of 251 competitors she finished third overall, with a 17:03.4 5K at the UCR Highlander Invite on Oct. 13.
Not only was her finish the fastest 5K time she’s posted in her collegiate career, it was the fastest recorded time in school history.
Head coach John Elders said he has been impressed with the progression and evolution of Huerta during her time at CSUF.
“She’s been given an amazing amount of God-given ability,” Elders said. “She’s just slowly progressed her training and the performances have gotten better every year.”
It should come as no surprise that she set her personal best at the UCR Ag-Ops Course given that she has beat her time from last year by 24 seconds and her freshman year by 43 seconds.
This is the first time in four years that a CSUF runner was bestowed this honor. Previously, Emily Taylor was recognized in October of 2014.
Although Huerta and Taylor weren’t on the team at the same time, they are close friends. Following the announcement of Huerta’s honor, she said she celebrated the news with Taylor.
The race in Riverside was Huerta’s second meet of the season as she missed the first two races of the season due to a hip injury that she sustained over the summer.
The La Mirada native said the first race she competed in this season in St. Paul, Minnesota set her up for success prior to the Highlander Invite.
“I think it was a smart decision that I opened up a few weeks ago at Griak (Invite) in Minnesota. That was a really tough race but coming back and racing at Riverside was — it seemed a lot easier because Griak was a very difficult course,” Huerta said.
Despite the injury creating a minor setback, Huerta said she is satisfied with the results she’s received.
“I’m just happy that I keep growing instead of plateauing,” Huerta said. “I don’t need to be the best to be happy.”
The CSUF women’s cross-country team clocked in a total time of 1:26:47.25 to edge out New Mexico State for first place.
Trinity Ruelas, Samantha’s teammate, said she cherishes the bond she has with Huerta.
“I’d say it’s like a big sister kind of relationship,” Ruelas said. “Maybe if I’m having not as good of a day, she’ll be there to cheer all of us on. Just motivate us to push through and think of our end goals.”