Our Stories

Cross-Country Champion Wins NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship

She's already won back-to-back cross country national championships, raked in numerous regional racing wins and been honored as one of the top eight student-athletes in the country. Now Sarah Zerzan '08 has another honor to add to her list: NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.

The prestigious national scholarship will provide Zerzan, who competes on the Willamette cross country and track and field teams, with $7,500 to help pay for graduate school. Only 29 male athletes and 29 female athletes receive this award yearly for each season of the athletic calendar (fall, winter and spring).

"I was pleasantly surprised and excited to learn that I had received the scholarship," Zerzan says. "I hope to use it for medical school tuition. Medical school can be very expensive, and since I plan on becoming a doctor one day, it will be very helpful to have this assistance in funding my education."

Willamette's cross country and track and field programs have a strong history of producing NCAA Postgraduate Scholars -- Zerzan is the fifth Bearcat in the last four years from these programs to receive the award.

The scholarship extends a long list of accomplishments for Zerzan during her time at Willamette. In January she was chosen one of just eight student-athletes nationwide to receive the NCAA Today's Top VIII Award, which honors character and leadership in addition to athletic and academic achievements. She won NCAA Division III cross country individual national championships in 2006 and 2007, making her only the third athlete to repeat as the women's champion in the 27-year history of the contest. She also earned All-America honors for three seasons, and she was named NCAA Division III National Female Athlete of the Year in cross country for the past two years.

When she's not competing, Zerzan remains devoted to her academics. She is majoring in biochemistry with a minor in Spanish. Two summers ago she traveled to Costa Rica through the Organization of Tropical Studies, headquartered at Duke University, where she studied the epidemiological effects of dietary change in the country's indigenous populations.

Her concern for helping others extends to her other extracurricular activities, which include volunteering as a bilingual mentor in several local schools and co-founding the Willamette chapter of the Student Global AIDS Campaign, the largest student network in the nation committed to ending the HIV and AIDS crisis worldwide.

"I feel like so many people have helped me and touched my life in so many ways that it's important for me to try to give something back," Zerzan says. "I was raised with the conviction that we are here to help others, and this belief motivates a lot of my actions. I hope that at least in some way what I do can make a positive impact in the lives of others."

For information on this scholarship and others, contact Monique Bourque in the Student Academic Grants and Awards office on the second floor of the University Center.