Zerzan Repeats as National Champion

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

NORTHFIELD, MINN. -- Willamette University senior runner Sarah Zerzan (San Carlos, CA/Notre Dame HS) has repeated as the NCAA Division III Women's Cross Country National Champion after finishing first at the 2007 National Championships on Saturday, Nov. 17 at St. Olaf College. She concluded her career with two individual national titles, three West Region championships and two Northwest Conference titles.

Zerzan and teammate Maddie Coffman (Jr., Boise, ID/Boise HS) earned All-America honors, as they led the Bearcat women's team to a ninth place finish. Coffman placed 11th individually (8th among scorers).

It was Zerzan's third All-America award in cross country, while Coffman received the award for the first time. The top 35 runners at the National Championships receive All-America recognition.

The Willamette men's team tied for 18th. Ian Batch (Sr., Eagle, ID/Capital HS) was WU's top finisher in 67th place (49th among scorers).

Zerzan earned her second national title by crossing the finish line to complete the 6-kilometer race in 20:54. She won by 23 seconds and was the only runner to complete the course in less than 21 minutes. Liz Montgomery of SUNY Geneseo took second in 21:17 and Alexandra Krieg of Middlebury College (Vt.) was third in 21:23.

"She just went out and ran hard until nobody else was with her, which is what she's done for the last two years," Willamette Head Coach Matt McGuirk said. "At about the nine or 10-minute mark she made her move. With about 1,500 meters to go, she had a 12-second lead and nearly doubled her lead the rest of the way to win by 23 seconds. She just ran hard and was the best runner today"

"I just wanted to keep my breathing in control because it was so cold," Zerzan said. "I ran how I feel comfortable. It works best for me to be in a race that is fast. That worked well for me."

When did Zerzan know she had won her second consecutive national title?

"Not until I finished. I knew I had a lead, but I didn't really know how secure it was," Zerzan recalled.

By winning the event, Zerzan became only the third athlete to repeat as the NCAA Division III women's national champion. The previous multiple winners were Tori Neubauer from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, in 1982 and 1983, and Missy Buttry of Wartburg College, in 2002, 2003 and 2004. There have been a total of 27 NCAA Division III national meets.

Coffman finished just six seconds out of the Top 10 and passed several other runners to conclude the race in 21:43. Ten other runners reached the finish line in the next 10 seconds. With about 300 meters left, Coffman was running in 16th or 17th place.

"Actually, she passed a lot of people," McGuirk said about Coffman. "This year, she has beaten everybody who's been around her at the finish."

After completing the race, Zerzan had a chance to watch Coffman approach the finish line. Zerzan was thrilled to see Coffman surge toward the front of the pack.

"I waited for Maddie," Zerzan said. "When I saw her coming, I started to jump up and down. She always passes people at the finish and she did it again. It's just so amazing to see."

Willamette's team score of 300 also included the results for Jena Winger (Jr., Bonney Lake, WA/Sumner HS), Edith Polanco (Jr., Salem, OR/McKay HS) and Ashley Sharratt (Jr., Union, OR/Union HS). Winger finished 89th among scorers (126th overall) with a time of 23:10. Polanco placed 91st among scorers (128th overall) and also received a time of 23:10. Sharratt was 111th among scorers (153rd overall) with a time of 23:18.

Amherst College (Mass.) won the women's team title with a score of 120. SUNY Plattsburgh was second at 159 and Washington University (Mo.) was third at 194.

In the men's race, New York University claimed the team title with a score of 128. Haverford College (Pa.) was second with a score of 150 and SUNY Cortland was third at 158.

The individual men's champion was Tyler Sigl from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. His time was 24:24 over the 8-kilometer course. Peter Kosgei of Hamilton College (N.Y.) was second in 24:37and Chris Erichsen of St. John's University (Minn.) was third at 24:40.

Batch recorded its best finish in four trips with Willamette to the National Championships. He completed the course in 25:35. Lucas May (So., Portland, OR/Franklin HS), running at Nationals for the first time, was WU's second finisher in 76th place among scorers (103rd overall) at 25:50. Taylor Roholt (So., Albuquerque, NM/Sandia Prep) was 87th among scorers (117th overall) with a time of 25:55.

Also contributing to Willamette's team score of 451 were Tristan Knutson-Lombardo (Jr., Juneau, AK/Juneau-Douglas HS) and Lucas Nebert (Sr., Cincinnati, OH/Wyoming HS). Knutson-Lombardo took 95th place among scorers (128th overall) and clocked in at 25:57. Nebert recorded a time of 26:18 to finish 144th among scorers (189th overall).

"Our top four guys were within 22 seconds of each other," McGuirk said about the Willamette men's team. "They were very close to 10th place, but they finished tied for 18th. They had an exceptional season."

Sarah Zerzan is the third runner to repeat as the NCAA Division III women's cross country national champion (Photo by St. Olaf Sports Information).

Sarah Zerzan is the third runner to repeat as the NCAA Division III women's cross country national champion (Photo by St. Olaf Sports Information).