You name it and Sarah Berger has probably done it. Over the course of her collegiate career at Walsh University, the Wadsworth graduate has earned numerous All-America honors and a handful of other awards.
The one thing that was missing was a national championship.
That all changed this past weekend as Berger raced to the NCAA Division II National title in the 1,500-meter run at the National Championships in Charlotte, N.C. Entering the race she had been runner-up nationally four times during her career.
“Finally winning a national title means everything,” Berger said. “I wasn’t totally sure it was going to happen, but I knew I could do it. I felt confident going into the race that I could do it, but there are always doubts in your mind that you have to overcome.”
The senior not only won the race, but did it in convincing fashion.
Berger took control from the start, never falling lower than second place before pulling away with 800-meters to go en route to taking first by over a full second recording a 4:22.22 to beat Simon Fraser’s Addy Townsend (4:23.68).
It was a plan that Berger had from the start.
“My strategy going in was to just sit on the shoulder of the leaders and be ready to make a really hard move with 400-500 to go, and then to just hold on to the lead from there,” she said. “I felt confident in my kick to be able to run a pretty tactical race. I know that my strength as a runner is not front running usually, so (my coach and I) thought this was the best strategy given the competitors in the race.
“It’s definitely always nerve wracking going into a championship race like this because you never know what kind of race you are going to get, so even though that was the strategy, I wanted to be prepared for anything.”
As Berger crossed the finish line, the county native calmly raised two hands in the air, trying to soak in everything that came with reaching her goal.
“When I crossed the finish line, I don’t even know what I was thinking,” Berger said. “It was just a combination of pure happiness, relief, and excitement I was just thinking ‘finally.’”
Berger also earned another All-American honor — her ninth overall — with a ninth-place finish in the 5,000. The harrier rallied after finding herself 17th at the start before kicking it in during the final laps to secure the top-10 showing.
And while the former multi-sport star at Wadsworth isn’t done with running, she is pleased with how it all played out over the weekend.
Berger will be attending Grand Valley State in the fall to be part of its Physician Assistant Studies Program, but will also use her remaining eligibility to run cross country for the Lakers.
But she couldn’t have asked for a better way to wrap up her competitive track life as a Cavalier.
“This was literally the best way I could have finished my collegiate career,” Berger said. “Winning a national title has been a dream of mine for the last few years, so capping off my career with a win was literally a dream come true.
“Being a part of the Walsh program with my amazing coaches and teammates I’ve had, as well as huge support from my family, has allowed me to take the next step in my running career. I’m so happy I got to win in a Walsh jersey.”