SMU Cross Country athletes demonstrated true spirit and support last weekend at the annual “Bishop Dunne Funne Runne,” an annual 5k race that occurs one Saturday morning every April at Bishop Dunne Catholic High school. For this race, SMU athletes traded their usual competitiveness for commitment to a greater cause, remembrance and respect of their teammate’s late sister.
“It was a special moment to be out there supporting a teammate and her family because we are all family,” International student athlete Anneke Grogan said. “Being foreign, you come to rely on your teammates for support and I think it was important to show reciprocal support for Rakel and her family this past weekend.”
For current SMU Track and Cross Country athlete Rakel Barrientos, running and the kinship sports bring about in people have helped heal the gap in her family, following the untimely loss of her sister Gladys Barrientos.
“She was a part of the cross country and wrestling team at high school,” Barrientos said. “Within wrestling, she was a two-time All-American and a national champion, her talent earned her a full athletic scholarship to compete at Oklahoma City University, but in order to stay close to home, she turned the offer down and opted for UT Arlington.”
At age 21, Gladys Barrientos was a passionate young woman a few months shy of graduation, with plans to attend Texas A&M for graduate school. But on one day in 2010, one reckless repeat-offender driving a Chevy Tahoe clocked over 100 mph and altered all of that. One motor accident changed the lives of the Barrientos family forever.
At the 5k “Bishop Dunne Funne Runne,” it was evident that the community of attendees was able to find strength in their shared loss and passion to uphold a young woman’s legacy.
“Gladys passion for athletics began at her high school,” Barrientos said. “So because she was so involved our family decided to tie the 5k race into a fundraiser honoring her.”
Barrientos touchingly linked the triumphs and losses of life to the race when asked about the course.
“I think it’s a great way to honor Gladys, it’s full up ups and downs with hills, as any life is,” Barrientos said. “Sometimes it’s tough but once you get passed it you become a stronger person. It’s always nice to see the community of all ages come together to celebrate the joyous life Gladys lived and her positive spirit.”
Teammate and graduate student Marlene Gomez reiterated Barrientos’ feelings.
“It was nice to just come to a race without the pressure we usually have and actually just experience it as a community event,” Gomez added. “It became clear that the intention of the event wasn’t high performance but rather community support, I just loved the genuine friendliness and humble atmosphere, it was grounding.”
Barrientos’ teammates surprised her with their participation on the cold blustery Saturday, “this experience truly brought upon a powerful feeling,” Barrientos said.
“Knowing that I have such sweet teammates who I am exceptionally grateful to have met,” Barrientos added. “Being a teammate is all about creating and sustaining positive relationships while exploring limits with a great attitude, which is what I value most about them.”
The team had a rare day-off from compulsory training, and the weather was far from appealing, but their commitment to show solidarity demonstrated their selflessness and sincere qualities, Barrientos remarked.
Sophomore steeplechaser Alison Esparza summed up the selfless mentality that helps drive these dedicated athletes to operate as a team and a family.
“When we’re there for each other when it counts outside of the sport, we can truly start to fight for each other during that time between the gun and the finish line, I just think it’s really important to support your teammates whenever you can because at the end of the day we are all in it together,” Esparza said.