Courtesy of Centre Athletics
LA CROSSE, Wisc. (May 26, 2018) – It was a historic day for Centre junior Annie Rodenfels, who became the school's third individual national champion ever after a dramatic victory in the 3000m steeplechase at the NCAA Division III Track and Field Championships at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Rodenfels qualified for this afternoon's final round after posting a time of 10:41.39 in the preliminary rounds on Thursday, marking the third fastest time in the field. Saturday's finals produced a much faster track and Rodenfels came through with a time of 10:15.75 to edge Kayla Leland of Whitworth by less than a second.
"The race was amazing," said Rodenfels. "I just woke up knowing that I felt strong, confident and just ready. Honestly, this race is the only thing I've thought about all year. And when it came down to it, I just knew I couldn't let someone beat me in a sprint at the end. I had more."
Rodenfels trailed Leland by a short distance throughout the race, staying about a half-second behind the senior from Whitworth through the first seven splits of the race before making a hard charge in the final eighth, passing Leland at the very end to take the split-second victory. Rodenfels's time was just over two seconds shy of an NCAA Championship record in the 3000m steeplechase, making it the second fastest time in NCAA Finals history. It also set a new school record, shattering the previous school record of 10:36, set by Rodenfels at last year's NCAA Championships.
Furthermore, Rodenfels posted the fifth fastest 3000m steeplechase time ever recorded in Division III women's track and field.
"I am so proud of Annie and her accomplishment today," said head coach Lisa Owens, who has now coached two of Centre's last three National Champions. "This is a win not just for her, but our track and field team, our athletics department and Centre College in general. She has overcome so much and worked so hard. It came down to guts and sheer heart today. Annie just wanted it more, and I'm so glad she did."
With the victory, Rodenfels etches her name into Centre history as the third National Champion ever in Centre Athletics, joining Chrys Jones '11, who won four individual titles in track and field in the long jump and triple jump, and Chris Morris '11, who won the National Championship in men's golf in his senior year of 2011. The win also marked the third All-America honor for Rodenfels during her collegiate career after earning All-America distinctions in track and field last spring and cross country this fall.
"I could not have gotten this far in running or in steeplechase without all of my coaches – Coach Owens, Coach Hagans and Victor Pataky, without my family and support team, without my team, and most importantly, without God. I knew I believed in myself, but to see everyone else believe in me – that was it. Being able to come out on top for all those people, that was well worth it."