Berlioux leads team this season

Mike McGough

For some athletes, it can take over a decade to excel at a sport. Chloe Berlioux, a fourth-year student and runner on Sacramento State’s cross country and track and field teams, has had a quicker ride to success.

Berlioux, 21, has been the fastest finisher on the women’s cross country team in the three races in which she has competed this season. She was named the Big Sky Conference’s Female Cross Country Athlete of the Week on Sept. 30 after taking 13th place overall at the Stanford Invitational Sept. 27.

“I’m happy with my season so far,” Berlioux said. “I think I have a lot more in the tank and I’m excited to see how the rest of the season goes.”

Berlioux, a redshirt freshman in the 2011 season, is now a key runner on the cross country team—even though she came to Sac State with no cross country experience at all.

Berlioux took up running when she was in eighth grade. Until she made track her focus in her last two years at Bishop Kelley High School in her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Berlioux was heavily invested in volleyball.

“I played [volleyball] for 11 years and I thought I would always do that when I came to college,” Berlioux said.

Instead, Berlioux developed a love and affinity for track, running summer meets after her junior and senior years of high school and improving her speed.

The decision to bring her talent to Sac State was set in motion when Berlioux competed in the 2010 USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships, held on campus in July 2010. Berlioux finished sixth place in the 800-meter and eighth place in the 1,500-meter at the Junior Olympics.

It was at this event where Berlioux met Scott Abbott, who was the head coach for Sac State’s cross country team and middle distance coach for track at the time. Berlioux, who said she liked Abbott as a coach and enjoyed the atmosphere at Sac State, decided to make the move to Sacramento and pursue track and cross country.

Current cross country head coach Joe Eby described Berlioux as a leader on the team.

“She’s somebody that comes in and will tell me if there’s anything that I should be concerned with, or brings stuff up to me, and it’s all not prompted by me at all,” Eby said.

Eby added Berlioux is easy to coach and the other women on the team look up to her. One of those girls is Lizette Gonzalez, Berlioux’s teammate and roommate.

“She holds everybody accountable for their responsibilities,” Gonzalez said. “She won’t get on anyone’s case unless it’s necessary. But she’s tough, a tough runner.”

Under Abbott and Eby, the biggest development in Berlioux’s cross country running has been the ability to add distance.

“I think with distance running, as you get older and more developed, it just kind of starts to come together,” Berlioux said. “I’ve been putting in a lot of work in the past four years and I think it’s starting to unfold. The practices and mileages that both Coach Abbott and Coach Eby have set up for me have seemed to work out really well.”

Berlioux cited personal issues, described as “break- downs” during her freshman and sophomore years of college as factors that caused her to take an important step back from cross country.

This enabled Berlioux to take a fresh approach to her running and increase her mileage. Thanks to some retooling and help from Abbott and Eby, Berlioux now runs about 60 miles in a typical week and has found success in meets.

Her parents, still living in Tulsa, visit Berlioux frequently and watch these meets when possible. She listed her family, teammates and Eby as her key supporters.

Eby described Berlioux as a model of consistent hard work in race and in practice.

“Consistency over long term means you’re going to get a lot better,” Eby said. “And that’s something she’s really good at.”

Eby considers Berlioux’s competitiveness to be another contributor to her success at meets.

“She’s a gamer,” Eby said. “When it comes time to race, she really turns it on and does a really good job.”

Berlioux pointed out as a runner on the track and cross country teams, she is essentially engaged in three sports. Her participation in fall cross country, winter indoor track and out- door track in the spring keeps her busy year-round, with off- seasons as short as two weeks.

“It can be a little bit mentally tough, but you just have to kind of check in with yourself,” Berlioux said. “Loving to race and compete is what keeps me motivated, but it does have its challenges for sure.”

Regarding the Big Sky Conference Championships coming Nov. 1, Berlioux said she hopes for a top-three finish for her team and a top 10 finish as an individual.

Gonzalez, who has known Berlioux for a month, summed up the team leader in a few short words.

“She’s goofy,” Gonzalez said. “And she’s definitely commit- ted to her studies and running.”

As a student, Berlioux is majoring in health care administration and may go on to nursing school after her expected graduation in Spring 2016.

But her plans are not set in stone. Berlioux said she may continue to run competitively after college depending on how the next few years play out.

“I just want to see what I can do in college,” Berlioux said. “I’d like to contribute as much as I can to the team while I’m here. And wherever that takes me aft