Zerzan Finishes Second in 5,000-Meter Run at NCAA Championships

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

OSHKOSH, WISC. -- Willamette University's Sarah Zerzan (Jr., San Carlos, CA/Notre Dame HS) took second place in the finals of the 5,000-meter race at the NCAA Division III Track and Field National Championships on Saturday, May 26 at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Zerzan, who won the NCAA Division III women's cross country national title in the fall, registered a time of 16.51.18 on Saturday to finish less than two seconds out of the lead. Shauneen Garrahan, a senior from Amherst College (Mass.), won the race in 16:49.54 to set a J.J. Keller Field record.

Zerzan was running at the National Championships for the second year in a row. Last season, she finished 11th in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 17:41.82.

"Sarah almost pulled it out. The other girl (Garrahan) didn't pass her until the last straight away, the final 80 yards or so," said Willamette Head Coach Matt McGuirk.

Garrahan, who was named the Women's Most Outstanding Athlete during the championships, also won the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 10,000-meter run. Her time in the steeplechase (10:13.33) was an NCAA Championships record and qualified her for the U.S. Olympic Trials.

In the final race of this year's event, the Willamette 4 x 400-meter relay team took fifth place in a fast race for the championship. Wartburg College won the race in 3:44.20, setting a J.J. Keller Field record and earning the top time in Division III this season.

Willamette finished the relay in 3:47.42, as Andrea May (Sr., Bellingham, WA/Sehome HS), Jennifer Luecht (Fr., Milwaukie, OR/Rex Putnam HS), Lydia Marsalli (Fr., Klamath Falls, OR/Klamath Union HS) and Mariah Hanson (Sr., Poulsbo, WA, North Kitsap HS) broke the school record by 43 one-hundredths of a second. The previous record, set at the NCAA National Championships a year ago by May, Lindsey Patterson, Jordyn Smith (Jr., Henderson, NV/Green Valley HS) and Hanson, was 3:47.85. Willamette's season best this spring prior to the National Championships was 3:50.19.

"It was a very physical race with lots of contact," McGuirk said. "I think our ladies, especially the freshmen running the second and third legs (Luecht and Marsalli), were really good at not getting intimidated. All of our relay runners ran their best relay splits of the year. They all ran well. It was a great way to finish the meet."

Also on Saturday, Jordyn Smith finished seventh in the finals of the women's 800-meter run. Smith, who completed the race in 2:11.82, was less than a second out of fifth place and just over a second away from fourth. Heidi Porter of Wartburg won the event in 2:09.49 for a J.J. Keller Field record.

Zerzan, a two-time All-America selection in cross country, added track and field All-America honors on Saturday. All-America status also went to Smith and to all of the runners on Willamette's 4 x 400-meter relay team.

Smith earned All-America recognition for the third consecutive season. As a freshman in 2004-05, she receive All-America honors by placing fifth in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles and eighth on WU's 4 x 400-meter relay team. Last year, she repeated as an All-America selection by helping the Bearcats take second place in the 4 x 400-meter relay.

May also recorded her third straight All-America season. She previously achieved the honor as part of the 4 x 400-meter relay team in 2004-05 and 2005-06. Hanson also achieved All-America status with the 2005-06 relay squad.

Representing the Willamette men's track and field team on Saturday was Grant Piros (So., Newberg, OR/Newberg HS), who competed in the javelin throw. Piros recorded a toss of 181' 11" for sixth place in the first flight, but did not advance to the finals. He was just four feet, five inches away from the cut, which was at 186' 4". All of the competitors in the first flight faced wind and rain, which ended before the start of the second flight.

The Willamette women finished in 18th place in the team standings with 14 points. The Bearcats earned eight points from Zerzan's finish in the 5,000, four points from the 4 x 400-meter relay results and two points from Smith's finish in the 800. Willamette did not score any points in the men's competition.

"I think we went to Nationals with a whole lot of young kids and we came out with six All-American awards and that's a pretty good week," McGuirk said.

The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh won the women's team title with a score of 57 points. The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse earned the men's team title with a score of 99 points for a 65-point margin of victory.

2007 NCAA Division III Track and Field Championships -- Men's Results
2007 NCAA Division III Track and Field Championships -- Women's Results

Sarah Zerzan earned a second place finish in the 5,000-meter run at the NCAA Division III National Championships.

Sarah Zerzan earned a second place finish in the 5,000-meter run at the NCAA Division III National Championships.