(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) – The wait is over. Sarah Berger is finally a national champion.
Coming into today, Berger had accomplished almost everything you could imagine in the athletic realm of Walsh University. The only exception was a national championship. With a time of 4:22.22 in the 1,500 meter run, the Wadsworth native now has the title that eluded her.
"It was awesome. I don't really know if it has sunk in yet to be honest," said Berger. "It's been a really long time coming. Obviously I had a lot of support from Coach Mizicko, the brains behind it all, teammates, family, friends, everyone following me through this journey. I'm sad to see it end, but it's the best way it possibly could have ended."
She started the race in lane two beside Grand Valley State's Allie Ludge. After the gun, Berger never jumped to the front and was never lower than second. That was her position for the first 700 meters. By the end of the third lap, Berger was in first and began to pull away. At the end of the race, she was over a second better than Addy Townsend of Simon Fraser who finished as the runner-up at 4:23.68.
"I had absolutely no idea what was happening behind me," added Berger. "These people could have been breathing down my neck or five years behind me. I literally had no idea. So I was just like 'sprint for your life' because I just wanted to win."
Berger had previously finished second nationally in four different events in her career.
That wasn't the only exciting news for the Maroon and Gold as Andra Lehotay also placed sixth to five the Cavaliers three more points to the team total. Lehotay was further back for most of the race bouncing between 11th and eighth in a tight pack. At the 1,100-mark she was back at 11th, but kicked and closed fast enough to finish sixth.
Berger wasn't done on the day as she ran the 5,000 meters in the penultimate event of the national championships. Even though she fell as far back as 17th at the start of the race, she was able to improve enough by the end to finish ninth and another All-American status.
Berger is now a 10-time All-American. Lehotay is now a five-time All-American.
In the team standings, Walsh's women finished tied for 19th with Azusa Pacific, Lewis, Roberts Wesleyan, and Virginia State. All five teams finished with 13 points. The men's team also finished tied for 19th with Lee. Both teams tallied 12 points.
"It was a pretty stellar weekend for us," said Coach Mizicko. "I don't know if it could have went much better. Two of the favorites being able to come in No. 1 and go out No. 1 is pretty special."