Runs in the family: Bit Klecker ready to raise bar for the Gophers alongside sibling

The Minnesota women’s cross country team is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten Championships last year. Bit Klecker, with her sister Sarah, look to change that.

Erik Nelson

Running cross country and track and field is a way of life for Gophers freshman Bit Klecker. 

Her mother competed in the 1992 Summer Olympics, her father ran cross country for the University of Wisconsin-Stout and two of her siblings are collegiate runners. 

Now, the Hopkins High School graduate will join older sister redshirt senior Sarah Klecker on the 2017 Gopher women’s cross country team.

The team’s culture motivated Bit Klecker to choose the University of Minnesota.

“The team is really close,” Klecker said. “There’s good chemistry between everyone. It’s nice to come into that. It’s nice to be close to home so I can still be racing in Minnesota.”

Becoming a runner

At an earlier point in her life, Klecker did not run competitively. She played soccer when she was in seventh grade.

“At that point, four of my other siblings were running track and cross country and were having a lot of success,” Klecker said. “I tried out in seventh grade and really liked it.”

At first, Sarah Klecker did not get along with her sister during Bit’s first year running cross country, but now she’s happy to be her teammate.

“I think there was a little bit of sibling rivalry,” Sarah Klecker said. “It was hard for me to adjust to running with her on the team.” 

The pair eventually became friends on the team during Bit Klecker’s second year of cross country for Hopkins High School.

Head coach Sarah Hopkins hopes Klecker will learn this season and adjust to college-level competition.

“Every time you’re switching from high school training to college training, there’s a lot of new things that will get thrown at you,” Hopkins said. “We try not to put [too much pressure] on any of our freshmen. We just want them to come in and learn.”

Sarah Klecker was excited when she learned her sister chose Minnesota.

“We’re pretty close, so she let me in on her whole college searching process,” she said. “Obviously, I was happy when she went to visit other schools because I think it was important for her to know that she was making the right choice.”

Going to the Gophers

Bit Klecker said there were other reasons why she chose Minnesota over other schools. She said Minnesota offers her more opportunities to make connections.

In 2016, Minnesota finished tenth or higher in all but one of its regular-season meets. The Gophers finished fourth at the 2016 Big 10 Championships.

“It seemed like it [Minnesota] was pretty natural for me,” she said.

Hopkins said when she looks for potential recruits, she does not look only for great runners. 

“She’s a great human,” Hopkins said. “You want low-drama. You want somebody who’s going to contribute to the team on all levels and not just running talent.”

When she has free time, Klecker likes to do yoga, walk her dog during the summer and spend time outdoors. She loves photography and is majoring in graphic design. 

“I like to take pictures that people really like and can cherish for the rest of their lives,” Bit Klecker said.

‘She went through hard times with running’

During her junior year, Bit Klecker suffered a lower back stress fracture.

Sarah Klecker said her sister has good natural speed and is motivated to train and improve as an athlete. She also said Bit Klecker knows how to recover from injuries. 

“Seeing her get through that and be able to come out the other side [and recover from the fracture]…she has a lot of perseverance and love for the sport,” Sarah Klecker said.

Bit Klecker’s older brother Joe Klecker runs for the University of Colorado. He thinks her determination to be the best at whatever she does is her strongest quality.

“She went through hard times with running when she wasn’t performing too well,” Joe Klecker said. “Even if she had a bad season or a bad race, she still managed to come back strong.”

Hopkins said every runner on the team is a puzzle piece. She said Bit Klecker is a unique one.

“It’s fun to have her,” Hopkins said. “We’re going to see where it fits and see where it takes her and then see how it can help the team going forward.”