Jenny Bergren takes 15th, earns All-American honors at NCAA II Women's XC Nationals

Jenny Bergren Courtesy Art U Sports Information

JOPLIN, Mo. Crossing 22 spots higher than her projected finish halfway through the race, senior Jenny Bergren made Academy of Art University proud on Saturday morning, Nov. 17, at the NCAA Division II Women's Cross Country National Championship in Joppa, Mo.

Bergren's 15th-place result, the highest of any individual qualifier, earned her the honor of becoming the Urban Knights' first All-American in program history, while her time of 21:01.6 was a season best.

The NCAA II National Championship 6K race was held on the Missouri Southern Cross Country Course in Joppa. The Top 40 finishers earn All-American Honors.

"At the starting line, all I was thinking was Top 40 over and over in my head," Bergren said. "As the race progressed, it was so hectic that I was just tying to relax and get into a rhythm. The last half, I kept telling myself to relax, hold and don't think."

"Champions always find a way to rise to the occasion," Head Coach Charles Ryan said. "Today, Jenny showed the championship pedigree that will define the 2012-13 season for ART U. She ran the race of her life, on the biggest stage of her life, and what more could anyone ask for? She finished 22 spots higher than projected, only 58 seconds off of the leader."

Jenny Bergren Ryan called Bergren's run an amazing performance.

"But even bigger than all that is what her performance today - and season as a whole - represents for this program, athletic department, and Academy of Art University," he said. "NCAA All-American. It's no longer a hope, a wish, a vision; its now reality. Jenny Bergren is proof for anyone who still doubts what can be accomplished at the NCAA level from an art school. She just validates all the hard work of so many people, I don't even know if she fully grasps what she accomplished today, but I hope she finds a moment to take it all in. Simply amazing."

The entire staff marveled at her performance.

"Jenny had never been to Nationals before, Academy of Art University had never been to Nationals before, and I had never seen Division II Nationals before, so this experience was as new as it could possibly be for all of us," Torrey Olson, Art U's assistant coach, said. "Afterwards, the first thing she said was, 'That was so hard.' We are incredibly proud of how Jenny perfectly executed her race in such a new environment today."

According to Olson, Bergren was 80th overall after the first mile and then, at approximately the 3k mark, she began her push to move up.

Halfway through the race, she was 37th overall and continued to climb. She would pass 22 more runners on what was considered the tougher portion of the course as it continued uphill after a downhill first half.

"Though she was not where she wanted to be early on, Jenny was able to do what she wanted to do for the rest of the race - so that was remarkable especially on a challenging course that was uphill during the second half," Olson said. "She responded incredibly for doing something like this for the first time, so we are really excited about what she accomplished."

Bergren's 15th-place result was the third highest from the West Region and a three-spot improvement from her performances at the NCAA II West Regional Championship in early November. And her time of 21:01.6 was her second lowest on a 6K course in her collegiate career.

Olson explained that the mark she posted in the second half of the course put her in a special class of athlete who offered a faster second portion.

"It feels pretty good to be in the Top 15 and to be the Academy's first All-American" Bergren said. "People kept asking where the Academy of Art University was and I would proudly tell them San Francisco. It feels good to get the school's name out there."

This appearance at Nationals caps not only an exquisite cross country career for Bergren, but also the 2012 Academy of Art University cross country season itself. However, all athletes return to run in the indoor track & field season set to begin on Dec. 1 at Boise State.

"It has been quite an experience," Bergren said. "Making it to Nationals and placing Top 15 has been incredible. I wouldn't have changed anything."