Zerzan Receives NCAA Today's Top VIII Award

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

NASHVILLE, TENN. -- Willamette University cross country and track and field athlete Sarah Zerzan (San Carlos, CA/Notre Dame HS) received an NCAA Today's Top VIII Award during the 2008 NCAA Honors Celebration, held on Sunday, Jan. 13 as part of the NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tenn. Zerzan , who is majoring in Chemistry (Biochemistry track), and seven other top student-athletes from throughout the NCAA were chosen for the Today's Top VIII Award.

All of the recipients were in their final year of eligibility and were selected for their athletic and academic achievements, plus character and leadership. In addition to Zerzan, other winners were Rachel Buehler, Stanford University, Soccer, Human Biology major; Roberto Castro, Georgia Institute of Technology, Golf, Industrial Engineering major; Dennis Dixon, University of Oregon, Football, Sociology major; Sarah Pavan, University of Nebraska, Volleyball, Biochemistry; Ben Wildman-Tobriner, Stanford University, Swimming and Diving, Biomechanical Engineering major; Lisa Winkle, Calvin College, Basketball and Track and Field, Mathematics/Secondary Education major; and Jamie Wolf, Clarion University, Swimming and Diving, Molecular Biology.

Zerzan won back-to-back NCAA Division III individual national championships in cross country in 2006 and 2007. She became only the third athlete to repeat as the women's champion in the 27-year history of the NCAA Division III National Championships.

In the fall of 2007, she was undefeated against all collegiate opponents. She claimed this year's national title on Nov. 17 at the NCAA National Championships, hosted by St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. She won the 6-kilometer race in 20:54 for a 23-second margin of victory. She won her first national title by 20 seconds at Voice of America Park in West Chester, Ohio, on Nov. 18, 2006.

Zerzan also helped Willamette place ninth in the team standings at the 2007 NCAA National Championships, while earning All-America honors for the third consecutive season. As a team, WU was 14th in the nation in 2005 and 20th in 2006.

Her list of individual titles includes winning three NCAA West Regional crowns (2005, 2006, 2007) and two Northwest Conference championships (2006, 2007). This year, she was the only women's runner at the NWC, West Regional and National meets to finish six kilometers in under 21 minutes, which she accomplished at all three meets. She helped Willamette continue its championship winning streaks at the NWC Meet (sixth title in a row) and at the West Regional Meet (fifth title in a row).

In track and field, she took second place in the women's 5,000-meter run at the 2007 NCAA Division III National Championships. She was 11th in the 5,000-meter run at the 2006 National Championships. This past spring, she won the Northwest Conference title in the 1,500-meter run, helping Willamette claim the team title.

Overall, she has set four Willamette track and field records during her career (1,500 meters at 4:38.36; 3,000 meters at 9:39.01; 5,000 meters at 16:28.54, and 10,000 meters at 35:20.17). She also holds WU cross country records for the 5-kilometer race (16:49.4) and the 6-kilometer race (20:32.7).

Zerzan was named NCAA Division III National Female Athlete of the Year in cross country in 2006 and 2007 and has been the NCAA Division III West Region Athlete of the Year in cross country twice (2006, 2007) and track and field once (2007).

She recently was selected as the nominee from cross country for the 2007-08 NCAA Division III Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year Award. Zerzan also was the nominee from cross country for the Woman Athlete of the Year Award in 2006-07. Just 11 student-athletes are chosen as nominees each academic year.

She also earned First Team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America honors in the combined category of cross country/track and field for the 2006-07 academic year. She has achieved a 3.93 cumulative grade point average while majoring in Chemistry (Biochemistry track). She plans to attend medical school next year.

In the summer of 2006, Zerzan took her studies abroad to Costa Rica, where she participated in a program with Duke University and the Organization for Tropical Studies. She helped conduct ethnobiology field research through interviews with Costa Rican indigenous people.

Zerzan is actively involved on the Willamette campus as a member of the steering committee for WU’s chapter of the Student Global AIDS Campaign. 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. She also is member of the Chemistry Club.

Sarah Zerzan receives the NCAA Today's Top VIII Award from Dr. M. Lee Pelton in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Trevor Brown, Jr./NCAA Photos)

Sarah Zerzan receives the NCAA Today's Top VIII Award from Dr. M. Lee Pelton in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Trevor Brown, Jr./NCAA Photos)