Hendrix’s Elizabeth Krug didn’t sleep much Friday night in her Wisconsin motel room — not out of joy but more out of fear.
"I was afraid I’d go to sleep and wake up and it would all be a dream," said Krug, who won the NCAA Division III heptathlon, the college’s first NCAA D3 national title.
She won by seven points by finishing fourth in the climactic 800 meters but far enough ahead of her other major competitors to secure a national championship trophy.
Because the events are decided by a points system based on time, she didn’t know she had won until the results flashed on the scoreboard at Wisconsin-LaCrosse’s track stadium shortly after she crossed the finish line.
She surged from fourth place to first after the 800 meters. The anxious moment came when she had a big lead in the final race over Theresa Ford of Emory (who had led the two-day competition from the beginning). Based on past performances, Krug knew that Ford was about 20 to 30 seconds slower than her in the 800 meters. That made it complicated.
"It’s harder to gauge when you have a lead rather than running from behind," said Krug via phone Saturday from a Chicago airport while awaiting a flight home. "You don’t want to lose seconds by looking behind and it’s really hard to determine, anyway, when you are racing and someone is way behind just how many seconds they are behind. You just have to run your own race."
An all-out sprint during the final 200 meters won her the title.
"I wasn’t going to have another meet for eight months, so I figured why not go out and go as hard as I could the last 200 meters?" she said. "I didn’t want to not five it all out I could and lose by a point. So, the last 200 was a sprint."
Krug, a junior from Heber Springs, stood in sixth place going into the final day of the seven-event competition. The first day was a rough one, particularly in the high jump, because of high winds.
"But after I find out everybody had problems that first day with the wind, I was fairly confident she could do it," said Patrick MacDonald, Hendrix track and field coach. "I did some roughshod math that night and figured out what she needed to do and the other contingencies that had to happen. She performed exactly as she needed to and the other competitors did pretty much like I thought they would."
"I did very well in the long jump (a school record) and I have a good throw in the javelin, so I was thinking I could finish in the top three," Krug said. "Before the 800, coach (MacDonald) came to me and told me I could win it (the championship). He usually does that before the competition begins rather than in the middle of a meet. So, when he told me that, I really felt I had a chance and I didn’t want to have anything but the maximum effort in the 800."
"This is huge for Hendrix," MacDonald said. "Lots of positives. It tells me Hendrix is doing things the right way both academically and athletically. It’s another step in the process of being a great college academically as well as having a strong academic program."
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)