College Sports

Saint Martin’s cross country runner juggles engineering, athletics — and three kids

A 2008 Olympic Trials’ qualifier and current graduate student at Saint Martin’s University, Karen Horvath has transitioned into cross country competition and has been selected as the GNAC conference’s top newcomer.
A 2008 Olympic Trials’ qualifier and current graduate student at Saint Martin’s University, Karen Horvath has transitioned into cross country competition and has been selected as the GNAC conference’s top newcomer. Staff photographer

There are days when Karen Horvath navigates the complexities of her schedule well.

“Some days,” she said. “Some days, I need ice cream at the end of the day.”

A first-year engineering graduate student at Saint Martin’s University, Horvath balances athletics, school, and family time with husband Eric and three young daughters, Abigail and Rebekah (3-year-old twins) and Rachel (1).

“In some ways, it’s really hard because I have to switch from activity to activity,” she said. “From taking care of kids and changing poopy diapers, to running, to class. So I’m constantly switching gears.”

The juggling act seems successful enough.

Horvath wrapped up the cross country season Saturday at the NCAA West Regional Championship in Monmouth, Oregon. She led the Saints for the first time this season, finishing 43rd overall with a time of 24 minutes, 14.12 seconds on the 6,000-meter course.

She was named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s female newcomer of the year in October.

“Karen, just because of her stage of life and being more mature, her discipline has been fantastic,” SMU coach Jim Brewer said.

Self-discipline is nothing new.

During undergrad, Horvath attended Miami University of Ohio where she graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering.

She also swam for two and half years on Miami’s swim team, and qualified for Olympic trials in 2008 in the 100-meter breaststroke.

“Even though I’d swam against a lot of those people before, just to have everybody be in one place, you know there’s a lot on the line that day,” Horvath said.

She finished 84th in the preliminary races in Omaha, Nebraska, after qualifying only a few weeks earlier.

“I didn’t really have a shot of making the Olympic team, but just to be there, it’s something that I’ll always have,” Horvath said. “I can always say I’ve been to Olympic trials.”

It’s just one phase in Horvath’s life and athletic training. She was originally training for triathlons after graduating from Miami, but made the switch to running when Abigail and Rebekah were born.

“After I had them, I was running with the stroller,” she said. “You can’t get on a bike with newborns, so I was focusing on just running. It’s a lot easier to train for a road race than it is for a triathlon, and that’s when I started doing road races — and that’s what I’ve been doing since.”

Horvath contacted SMU one day during naptime to inquire about the school’s engineering program. A month later, she and Brewer discussed her joining the cross country team.

“These doors just opened that I hadn’t expected at all,” Horvath said.

Though her demanding schedule didn’t always afford her time to be at practice, Brewer said the commitment to flexibility was worth it.

“She does cross training where she’s on the bike or in the pool, so she’s doing other stuff, too,” Brewer said. “It’s not a matter of her desire or ability to work hard.”

No, Horvath does plenty of that. She’s discussed with Brewer wrapping up her final year of collegiate athletic eligibility in the spring with SMU’s track and field team.

And plans to re-enter the workforce full time pending her graduation in spring 2017.

“I’d love to do something in the thermodynamics engineering realm,” Horvath said. “That’s kind of what I’m focusing on for my masters is thermodynamics and fluids and fluid mechanics, so we’ll see. It might change next week.”

As might her schedule.

But a change in her athletic drive? Not likely.

Horvath said she has a bucket list of races she wants to compete in, including the Ironman World Championship held annually in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, the Boston Marathon and a 100-mile race.

“I guess just as soon as I’m done with college, I’ll pick one of those bucket-list items and start working on it,” she said.

Lauren Smith: 360-754-5473

lsmith@theolympian.com

@smithlm12

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