After three years and six trips to the national meet, Denison junior Aedin Brennan achieved the ultimate college track & field experience. On Friday afternoon in Canton, N.Y., located just hours from her hometown of Fairport, Brennan stood atop the NCAA podium as the Division III National Champion in the heptathlon.
"The coaching staff is extremely proud of Aedin," said Denison Head Track & Field Coach Mark FitzPatrick. "All of her hard work over the past three years has paid off. She is a pleasure to work with, and we are very fortunate to have her at Denison. It is a great day for Aedin, Denison Track & Field, and Denison University."
After finishing seventh in the event in 2013 and 2014, Brennan brought home the gold in front of many friends and family. With her victory, she became the first female Denison track & field athlete to win a national title. Her two-day score of 5,091 points not only shattered her previous school mark of 4,860, it also ranks as the ninth-best performance in the heptathlon at the NCAA Division III Championship. Brennan's score also broke the stadium record of 4,852 points set in 2003 by Calvin's Annie Vanderlaan.
"After outdoor nationals her first year, I believed Aedin would have the opportunity to truly compete for a national title by the time she graduated from Denison'" FitzPatrick said. "She had the physical and mental skills. They just needed to be developed, which is what we have been working on for the past two years. I knew she was ready to truly compete for a national title after indoor nationals this year when she placed fourth, only 64 points out of first. She proved to herself that she could compete with the best in the nation."
When Brennan arrived at the Merrick-Pinkard Track & Field Complex on Friday morning she knew that her ultimate goal of a national title was well within her grasp. After four events on Thursday, she sat in third place, just 38 points behind the leader.
Brennan needed only one event on Friday to turn that 38-point deficit into a 13-point lead. The event that ultimately put her on top for good was one of her strongest, the long jump. Brennan finished second in the event, but her leap of 18'1" earned her 703 points which moved her ahead of both Erin McCauley of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Carelton's Amelia Campbell.
After a brief rest between events, Brennan went back to work with an unfamiliar goal…adding to her lead. She was able to do just that with a seventh-place showing in the javelin. Her best mark came in her final attempt where she threw the javelin 110'11". That showing added 549 points to Brennan's total and extended her lead to 91 points over second place Charity Arn of George Fox.
As the 22 athletes prepared for the final event, the Denison junior was primed to quell the drama with a strong finish in the 800 meter run. Brennan did just that, turning in her fastest time ever in the event. She clocked in with a time of 2:17.45, finishing second to Allie Boudreau of Illinois Wesleyan. Brennan's performance earned her 858 points and, more importantly, the right to stand at the top of the podium with the gold.
"Being in third going into the second day still didn't make me think about the national championship yet," Brennan said. "I only really started to consider the possibility after the javelin. I was almost overwhelmed with excitement and I had never been so pumped to run an 800. I was running for the title, and I have never felt better in the second lap!"
"Coach Fitz has been telling me for years that I had the ability to be a national champion in the multis but I never really believed him until this week. When I crossed the finish line in the 800, Allie (Boudreau) turned to me and congratulated me before I could even catch my breath. She had been pushing me throughout the meet telling me that I could win it. It was a perfect example of the greatest aspect of the multis: the support from the competitors."
On Thursday, Brennan opened the heptathlon with back-to-back personal-record performance. In the 100-meter hurdles, she finished 10th with a time of 15.05 seconds. Brennan moved up in the standings with a personal-best mark in the high jump. She was one of five athletes to successfully clear 5'2.50" which landed her in a tie for fourth place. With that performance, she added 724 points to her score and jumped to sixth in the standings.
Brennan pushed her way into the top-3 with strong performances in the final two events on Thursday. She threw the shot 35'8.50" to earn 587 points and finish seventh in the event. Those points moved her into the top five with just one event to go on the first day of competition. In Thursday's final event, Brennan ran a time of 25.57 seconds in the 200-meter dash which earned her fourth place. That time garnered her 835 points, moved her into third place in the overall standings and set the table for Friday's historic finish.
"I felt that Aedin had a good chance of winning after day 1 when she was only 38 points out of first because I knew the events on day 2 (LJ, javelin, 800) are strengths for her," FitzPatrick said. "After the long jump today, I was convinced she would win as long as she had a decent throw in the javelin, which she did. Then she finished in style with a two-second PR in the 800M. It was a fun two days. I am very happy for Aedin."
Placing second to Brennan in the standings was Boudreau with 5,000 points, while Arn took third with 4,928. Campbell, last year's heptathlon champion, placed fourth (4,924), while McCauley was fifth with a final score of 4,848 points. In addition to being a national champion, Brennan also picked up the fifth All-American honor of her career.
"I am still processing the win and what it really means, but I am certainly very happy and excited," Brennan said. "The team has been sending me messages of support and congratulations for the last few hours. These past two days have provided me with wonderful memories, and I am very thankful for the Denison Track and Field program and all of those involved (coaches and teammates)!"
Brennan will look to ride the momentum from her national-championship performance on Saturday when she returns to Merrick-Pinkard Track & Field Complex for the women's triple jump. The first of two prelims flights is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. The top nine performances from those flights (after ties) will advance to the finals.