The decision of which college to attend for athletes often comes down to comfort level with coaches, the campus and other students on a team. In that sense, South Dakota State University clearly stood out above the rest for Alexandria senior Caitlin Bright.

Bright signed with SDSU on Wednesday morning to run track and field and cross country at the Division I level with the Jackrabbits.

“I think it started from the moment that I stepped onto the campus,” Bright said. “I just felt super comfortable. I went later for an official visit with the team, and I just connected with a lot of the girls there. There were two other recruits I stayed with, and I really connected with them. I think the biggest thing is the campus just felt like home to me, it felt comfortable.”

Bright also looked seriously at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. The Bulldogs run at the Division II level.

The opportunity to compete at a little higher level collegiately was a factor for Bright, but not the deciding factor. Academics were important to her too as she gets ready to major in human biology with the goal of going on for a pre-physician assistant program.

“It did play a little bit of a role,” Bright said of running at the Division I level. “The most important thing for me was finding the school that I felt the best at. SDSU, the campus and the overall schooling, it just made me feel really comfortable. I value schooling so much, and UMD is a great school too. They were pretty even academically, but I think in the end, it just came down to how comfortable I felt on the campus.”

Bright and her Alexandria teammates are coming off a cross country season where they led the Cardinals to a third straight state-meet appearance. Alexandria finished fourth as a team, and Bright was 51st individually with a time of 19:19.4 in her final high school race before she wraps up her career in track and field this spring.

Bright knows the jump from high school competition to the Summit League is a big one, but she is ready for whatever steps are necessary to perform to the best of her ability.

“I look forward to a challenge,” she said. “Running at that DI level, it’s intimidating, it’s scary, but I’m so ready to fight and try my best to earn a spot on that amazing team.”

Bright has already been prepared by running in one of the top Class AA programs in Minnesota in Alexandria. The Cardinals have 24 state appearances in their girls program, and that comes from having training plans in place that prepare athletes to be at their best. She will take a similar approach with her to college as she jumps to the next level in the fall.

“I think it’s nothing new,” Bright said. “It’s running every day. It’s giving it your full effort each and every day. It’s the little things like stretching, strengthening, trusting the process. (SDSU head) coach (Rod) DeHaven is a great coach, and I believe that he wanted me on the team for a reason. I’m just ready to go there and fully commit to his process. If I make the right decisions and do what I need to do, I think that improvement is just going to be a byproduct of trusting and riding the training.”