Valentic runs in ‘the highest temperatures’

Susan Rodriguez, Sports Reporter

With sports back in full effect, many teams have successfully filled their roster. This is especially true for CSUB’s Women’s Cross Country team and Track and Field.
Amongst the variety of talent on this year’s roster, Junior distance runner Helena Valentic traveled internationally from Croatia this August of 2022 and joined CSUB’s Women’s Cross Country team. Valentic was named a national champion for 2020 U23’s Champion in the 3000-meter steeplechase ranking 75th in Europe.
A 3000-meter steeplechase is a distance of 3000 meters (9,843 ft) and requires the runner to complete a circuit of four ordinary barriers and one water jump. During the course of the race, each runner must clear a total of 28 ordinary barriers and seven water jumps.

Helena Valentic runs in CSU Bakersfield’s cross country race at Woodward Park in Fresno on Sept. 3, 2022. Photo provided by CSUB athletics

For Valentic, her personal best is 11:02,74. With her speed she was able to place 6th at the Waves Invitational on Oct. 1, 2022, making her the only female runner from CSUB to place below 10.
Valentic, with a not-so-typical background for CSUB’s usual demographic of local students, explains the differences she as a Croatia native experiences on and off the course. Some of these differences include being involved in only the single sport of cross-country and having family near at all times.
Although she has not previously ran in both track and cross country within the same season, she explains her excitement of “looking forward to something all the time.”
Having events all year long, as opposed to just the season of cross-country, gives her motivation to continue her workouts and dedication.
Valentic also explains how her home state does not divide the sport into track and cross country, like many schools across the nation, instead, “It’s all under athletics. We only have a national championship in cross country and that’s the only competition in the whole year.”
Adapting to athletic differences wasn’t the only change, as there are many other differences that Valentic describes as being unlike home. She states that she is not accustomed to the high heat since, in Croatia, the weather is much more humid.
The weather significantly played a great role in her decision to attend CSUB. With Bakersfield’s heat hitting a high of 116 degrees in some areas, Valentic affirms that “This is the highest temperatures I have felt in my life.” With offers from other areas of the US, she explains how she was okay with moving anywhere that was not humid.
As her first year at CSUB, demands she balances are the needs of being a student athlete and a student who is countries away from home, Valentic explains that her motivation comes from her family. Facetiming and constantly messaging them allows her to continue progressing on and off the course.
She is always wanting to improve and become the best version of herself. “I can’t imagine not being able to text or video call my family and friends at any time, I think that would be impossible for me. But since I have those options, it makes it easier.”
CSUB’s cross-country team welcomes her and is excited for what Valentic will bring to the table. Coach Mansur-Wentworth explains what a great fit she would be to the team and campus.

Helena Valentic, right, approaching close behind Fresno Pacific runner, left cross country race at Woodward Park in Fresno on Sept. 3, 2022. Photo provided by CSUB athletics

“I recruited her because of her versatility in distance events and her experience.” Great achievements are expected as coach Mansur-Wentworth shares, “Hope in the spring she can break the school record in the steeplechase.”
This diversity is not uncommon for CSUB’s athletics department, as Sports Information Director Daniel Sperl recognizes, “An estimate of about 1 in 6 or 7 student athletes are international.” Valentic is a part of these student athletes that offers different insight to the athletic program.