May 24, 2013

Brennan earns All-American honors

As the old saying goes, "It's not over until it's over."  That adage was evident on Friday afternoon in La Crosse, Wisconsin when Denison freshman Aedin Brennan jumped 10 spots in the NCAA Division III Heptathlon standings to earn All-American honors for the first time in her young career.

Following four heptathlon events on Thursday, Brennan sat in 17th place in the overall standings with 2,709 points.  The rookie opened the event with a personal-best performance in the 100 hurdles (15.73).  She also finished 11th in the high jump (5'00.50"), seventh in the shot put (34'01.50") and 17th in the 200-meter dash (26.68).  Brennan climbed as high as 15th on day one before falling back into the 17th spot.

Knowing she needed a solid outing on day two to have a chance at earning All-American honors, Brennan opened Friday's events with sixth-place performance in the long jump with a leap of 17'02.25".  That distance earned the freshman 626 points and moved her into 14th place through five events.

"Aedin showed a maturity beyond her years," said Head Coach Mark FitzPatrick. "Even though she was 17th after day 1 and did not start day 2 as well as we would have liked, she remained focused. She realized that she was still capable of placing in the top 8 if she could do well in the javelin throw and 800 meters."

The Big Red freshman was still 129 points shy of eighth place with two events remaining.  Still having quite a hill to climb, Brennan got ready for the javelin which was the only event the rookie didn't PR in at the North Coast Athletic Conference Combined Event.  That wasn't the case on Friday as the freshman threw the spear a personal-best 113'10". Her toss surpassed her pervious PR by almost 18 feet and scored her 566 points.  In addition to recording her second personal-best performance in the heptathlon, Brennan also climbed to 10th in the standings.

"Doing well in the final two events was easier said than done," FitzPatrick said. "While the 800 was her strongest event, the javelin throw was her weakest, and she had been struggling with it in training recently. However, she was not worried and showed it by throwing a PR of over five meters."

With only one event to go and sitting 139 points out of All-American position, the DU rookie knew she would need another outstanding performance to have a shot at cracking the top-8.  Despite being one of three freshman in an event dominated by upperclassmen, Brennan showed her competitive spirit by winning the final event, the 800-meter run, with a personal-best time of 2:20.21.  Not only did the first-year win the race by over two seconds, she also scored 821 points to finish seventh in the overall standings.

"I'm very proud of Aedin," FitzPatrick remarked. "Her performance over the past two days revealed that her biggest asset as an athlete is not her physical ability but her mental strength.  She is even keeled and patient, has an ability to see the big picture, and knows that if she is consistent from event to event, she will be competitive."

Brennan posted a school-record 4,722 points in the heptathlon.  She also became the fifth female in Denison track & field history to earn All-American honors, and the first since Katie Navarre in 2009.

Elizabeth Krug of Hendrix won the event with 4,835 points, while Emory's Theresa Ford (4,828) and Megan Stringer of Illinois College (4,822) finished second and third, respectively.  Also earning All-American status were Beth Stam (4th) and Maria Green (6th) of George Fox, Concordia-Moorhead's Kaari Jensen (5th), and Jean Weigel of Wisconsin-La Crosse (8th).

Brennan and Green were the only two underclassmen that earned All-American honors.  The other six honorees consisted of one junior and five seniors.