Zerzan Named NCAA Division III Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University senior runner Sarah Zerzan (San Carlos, CA/Notre Dame HS), who competed for the Bearcats in cross country and track and field, has been chosen to receive the 2007-08 NCAA Division III Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year Award, sponsored by Honda. The prestigious 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.”

One athlete from each of 12 sports was selected by a committee to be considered for the award. Zerzan was nominated from cross country and was chosen in voting by athletic administrators from throughout NCAA Division III. She also was nominated for the award in 2006-07.

"Sarah has been an outstanding student-athlete at Willamette," said Mark Majeski, Willamette athletic director. "We are thrilled that she has been selected for this special award that pays tribute to her tremendous success in cross country and track and field, plus her accomplishments as a student and her efforts in community service."

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 2007, she was undefeated against all collegiate cross country opponents. In track and field, she placed second in the 5,000-meter run at the NCAA Division III Championships in 2007.

"I was extremely honored by my selection for this award," Zerzan said. "I know that many talented and accomplished female athletes were also nominated.

"It is a reflection of the support of my coaches, teammates, family, and friends throughout my time at Willamette," Zerzan added. "Without the efforts of coaches and professors I would never have been able to achieve success athletically or academically. My achievements would have been equally impossible without the support of family and friends. I am honored and humbled by the award."

Zerzan set a total of six Willamette records. She achieved track and field records in the 1,500-meter run (4:31.52), the 3,000-meter run (9:39.01), the 5,000-meter run (16:28.54) and the 10,000-meter run (35:20.17). She established records in cross country at 5 kilometers (16:49.4) and 6 kilometers (20:32.7).

She graduated from Willamette this spring with a 3.94 cumulative grade point average. She majored in Chemistry (Biochemistry track).

As a cross country runner, Zerzan won three NCAA West Regional titles (2005, 2006, 2007) and two Northwest Conference championships (2006, 2007). She won NWC individual track and field titles in the 1,500-meter run in 2007 and the 10,000-meter run in 2008. She was limited to only two competitions this spring due to injury, but recorded an NCAA provisional qualifying time in the 10,000 during the NWC Championships.

Zerzan exhibited incredible perseverance and fortitude. She was hit by a car during the 2006 track and field season, but returned to action with a week and a half to prepare for the NCAA National Championships. She placed 11th at Nationals in the 5,000-meter run, then earned her second place finish in the same event one year later.

This spring, she overcame an injury to qualify for the NWC Championships in the 10,000-meter run. She won the NWC title, providing the Bearcats with 10 points on their way to WU's seventh consecutive NWC team championship. Willamette has won six consecutive NWC team titles in cross country.

The NCAA Division III Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year Award is one of several prestigious awards Zerzan has received for her overall efforts the past four years. Earlier this year, she was one of just eight student-athletes from throughout the NCAA's three divisions to receive the NCAA Today's Top VIII Award. She received the Jean Williams Award this spring as Willamette's top senior female student-athlete based on leadership, scholarship and athletic success.

Zerzan was the NCAA Division III National Female Athlete of the Year in cross country in 2006 and 2007. She was chosen NCAA Division III West Region Athlete of the Year in cross country during the same two seasons. She was named NCAA Division III West Region Women’s Track Athlete of the Year in 2007.

She was selected First Team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America in the combined category of cross country and track and field in 2006-07. She is among those eligible for Academic All-America honors in 2007-08 after being named First Team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District for the second consecutive year.

She has been active in community service. She worked on the steering committee for Willamette’s chapter of the Student Global AIDS Campaign and was a Russian-English and a Spanish-English mentor at area schools. In the summer of 2006, she studied abroad in Costa Rica, where she helped conduct ethnobiology research through interviews with the indigenous people.

The NCAA Division III Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year Award follows in the long history of the Honda-Broderick Cup, which still goes to the top female athlete in NCAA Division I. Zerzan and other national award winners will receive their awards on June 23 at Columbia University in New York City.

Nominees for the 2007-08 NCAA Division III Woman of the Year Award:
Sarah Zerzan (winner), Cross Country, Willamette University
Rachel Anderson, Track and Field, Illinois Wesleyan University
Meia Daniels, Basketball, Howard Payne University (Texas)
Karen Doane, Lacrosse, The College of New Jersey
Cary Gibson, Tennis, Williams College (Mass.)
Taryne Lee, Soccer, Wheaton College (Ill.)
Susan Martin, Golf, Methodist University
Lindsey McNamara, Field Hockey, Bowdoin College (Maine)
Brittany Sasser, Swimming, Amherst College (Mass.)
Megan Soultz, Softball, DePauw University (Ind.)
Amber Thomas, Volleyball, Juniata College (Pa.)

Sarah Zerzan won two national titles in cross country. She was undefeated against collegiate cross country runners during the 2007 season.

Sarah Zerzan won two national titles in cross country. She was undefeated against collegiate cross country runners during the 2007 season.

Sarah Zerzan won her second NCAA Division III individual cross country title in the fall of 2007.

Sarah Zerzan won her second NCAA Division III individual cross country title in the fall of 2007.