Zerzan Nominated by Honda for NCAA Division III Woman Athlete of the Year Award

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University cross country runner Sarah Zerzan (Jr., San Carlos, CA/Notre Dame HS) has been nominated for the NCAA Division III Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year Award, presented by Honda. The award is given to a female student-athlete who “demonstrates superior athletic achievements and embodies the ideals of team contribution, scholastic endeavor and school and community involvement.” A total of 12 student-athletes, one from each of 12 women’s sports, is nominated for the award.

“This nomination is a great honor for Sarah, her family and Willamette University. Sarah is an extraordinary student-athlete and we are proud of her accomplishments in the classroom as well as in cross country and track,” said Matt McGuirk, head cross country and track coach at Willamette.

The key accomplishment leading to Zerzan’s nomination was her performance at the NCAA Division III Cross Country National Championships, held at Voice of America Park in West Chester, Ohio, on Saturday, Nov. 18. Zerzan battled a wet and muddy course to win the women’s individual title in a field of 279 runners, becoming Willamette’s first national champion in cross country. She completed the 6-kilometer course in 22:31 to win by 20 seconds over the second place finisher, Caitlin Bradley of Dickinson College. Zerzan was named All-America in cross country for the second consecutive year, after placing 25th in 2005 (the top 35 finishers earn All-America status). She placed 60th as a freshman in 2004.

Prior to the National Championships, Zerzan’s season was highlighted by individual victories in four out of five races. On her home course at Bush’s Pasture Park in Salem, Ore., she outran 297 competitors to win the 32nd Annual Charles Bowles Invitational in 17:11.00 over a 5-kilometer run, leading Willamette to a second place trophy. Two weeks later at the Mike Hodges Invitational, hosted by Clackamas Community College, Zerzan ran to victory in a race with Division I competition from the University of Oregon. She recorded a time of 16:49.33 over the 5K course to lead WU to another second place finish.

At the Northwest Conference Championships on October 28th at Pacific Lutheran University, Zerzan took advantage of a fast surface at the PLU Golf Course to win the 6-kilometer race in 20:32.66, nearly a minute faster than the second place finisher. Zerzan’s outstanding finish in the conference meet was a key in the Bearcats 50-54 victory over the University of Puget Sound in second place. During the West Regional meet in Chino, California, on Nov. 11, Zerzan won the individual title for the second year in a row. She completed the 6K course in 21:45.68 to cross the finish line 37 seconds in front of the second place finisher. As in 2005, Zerzan led Willamette to the Regional Championship.

Not only were Zerzan’s times extremely competitive this season, they were the fastest that Willamette has ever seen. Zerzan broke the school record in the 5K twice this season, toppling Kara Crisifulli’s 21-year-old record of 17:27.0 and setting a new mark of 16:49.33. In the 6K, Zerzan shattered Danya Rumore’s record of 21:28.3 by 56 seconds. Zerzan followed in the footsteps of her father Terry Zerzan, who ran for Willamette in the 1970s. He school records for Willamette and won Northwest Conference individual titles in 1974 and 1977.

Sarah Zerzan has been on inspiration to her team. Last spring, after battling back from an injury, she claimed 11th place in the 5,000-meter run at the 2006 NCAA Division III Track and Field Championships with a time of 17:41.82. Earlier in the 2006 season, she set a new school record of 17:14.57 in the 5,000.

Zerzan is extremely dedicated to academics, as she has a 3.945 grade point average in Chemistry (Biochemistry track). Last summer, Zerzan took her studies abroad to Costa Rica, where she participated in a program with Duke University and the Organization for Tropical Studies, conducting ethnobiology field research through interviews with Costa Rican Indigenous people.

Zerzan is also actively involved on the Willamette campus as a member of the Chemistry Club and the steering committee for WU’s chapter of the Student Global AIDS Campaign, which recently hosted the Pacific Northwest World AIDS Day Summit in Salem. Since her freshman year, Zerzan has volunteered at Waldo Middle School in the Russian-English bilingual mentorship program. She also has volunteered as a Spanish-English mentor at Richmond Elementary School. While at home in San Carlos, Calif., Zerzan does not take a break. With dreams of medical school in her future, she has volunteered at Kaiser Hospital in Redwood City, Calif., since her freshman year of high school.

The winner of the 2006-07 NCAA Division III Collegiate Woman of the Year Award will be chosen in the spring following the completion of the other athletic seasons. The award will be presented by Honda to the winner in late June, 2007.