Falcon women win first track and field NCAA championship
September 18, 2008
Last spring the UW-River Falls women’s track and field team surprised many, including its coach, by winning the Div. III National Championship for the outdoor season.
“Did I expect that we would win? No,” UWRF track and field coach Martha Brennan said. “We knew going in we would do well, maybe a top five finish.”
With 35 points UWRF split the title with Illinois Wesleyan University.
Unfortunately for Brennan, she was unable to attend the schools first national championship in track and field because she gave birth to her fourth child, Bella, the night before.
“It was too bad Martha (Brennan) couldn’t be there,” Becca Jordahl, a freshman and key part of the championship for UWRF, said. “She would have been happy.”
Jordahl won the 5,000-meter run in 16:52.49, which is a school record, and also clinched the split national title. She finished third in the 10,000-meter run, and earned All-American honors in each event. With her performance, Jordahl scored 16 of the 35 points for the Falcons.
Before the 5,000-meter event, Jordahl, who never participated in track and field until last winter, did not know how important her race was.
“I wasn’t keeping track of the points and didn’t know what was going on since I’m new to the sport,” she said. “I just go and run.”
Jordahl is part of the cross country team for UWRF and was convinced by others to join the team and did so for training. She is also an All-American in cross country.
Shannon Zweifel, a senior last year, scored four points in 400-meter hurdles for the Falcons, with a fifth place finish and a pleasant surprise for Brennan.
“She hadn’t done that all year,” Brennan said. “Didn’t expect that at all.”
Zweifel earned All-American honors with her finish.
Going into the meet UWRF was not the best, but shined when it needed to the most, Brennan said.
“Every kid performed well that day. We were all on top of our game and we also had a little luck.”
UWRF is the third consecutive WIAC school to win the track and field outdoor national championship. UW-Oshkosh won titles outright in 2007 and 2008 and also won in 2004.
UWRF’s national championship comes in Brennan’s fourth year with the program. Prior to Brennan, UWRF finished eighth in the WIAC for women’s outdoor track and field.
Before accepting the head coaching position for the Falcons, Brennan coached at Texas A&M and Iowa. She was on the Louisiana State University track and field team and won national championships in 1994 and 1995.
She said her Div. I experience has helped her with recruiting and build a program that was not strong when she got here.
“It has helped because I can tell an athlete that they can come to a Div. III school and get Div. I coaching,” she said. “I like to win. A national championship is great for a program that was on the bottom when I got here.”
The Falcons now have four national titles, one in track and field and three in hockey.
Krista Hasselquist, a senior last spring, earned All-American honors in shot put. It was the fourth time she earned those honors. Vicki Cooper, also a senior last spring, was an All-American in shot put and discus.
UWRF will begin its indoor season Jan. 31, 2009 at the Stout Invitational. The outdoor season begins March 28, 2009 at the Alabama Relays.