The D-III cross country experience

Jenny Scherer

Jenny Scherer

Senior, St. Norbert
Four-year cross country and track athlete. A nine-time All-American, she finished third at the recent Division III Cross Country National Championship meet with a time of 21:08.
Jenny Scherer's blog

By Jenny Scherer

On Saturday, Nov. 20, 560 cross country runners (280 men and 280 women) hailing from Division III colleges across the nation descended on the Max Cross Country course at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. I was fortunate enough to be a part of all the action and excitement for the fourth consecutive year.

For me, this was my last collegiate race ever; and despite being there for the fourth time, as I stepped to the starting line, I had just as many butterflies in my stomach as I did exactly four years prior as a lowly freshman. 

In running, as in most other sports, no one year is ever guaranteed, and each season unfolds differently than the last. With this in mind, each Nationals experience for me has been equally special, each producing memories which will forever be a part of my life.

Jenny Scherer and Mandy Whipple consult with coach Don Augustine before the race.
Photos by Ryan Coleman,

We had the banquet the night prior to the race, which is always fun to get a chance to get dressed up and see fellow competitors in attire other than running gear! It was also fun to be present with my teammate, Mandy Whipple, for her first-ever Nationals experience.

As Saturday arrived, this time around, I was focused on saving my best for last.  We had a little excitement as the race began as a runner was tripped in the first 100 meters, causing the start to be called back. We shook it off and used it as an extra-energized final stride out, and two minutes later, we were officially off and running.  The lead pack was at four through about two miles, then dwindled to three until about 1,000 meters to go.

I put myself in contention to win the title by staying in that small pack, which was my goal going in. While I ultimately ended up taking third, on that final straight away to the finish, I went as hard as my legs could possibly carry me, and for that, I was able to walk away from Waverly, Iowa, with absolutely no regret, knowing I left it all out on that course.

It was a season full of wonderful memories – finally winning a Midwest Conference Team Championship, setting a 6K personal record by about 20 seconds, and achieving my best-ever Nationals finish. 

Wendy Pavlus of St. Lawrence won the women's cross country title for the second year in a row, finishing in 20:49.

And now, I prefer to stick with the quote to “not cry because it’s over, but smile because it happened.”

I started out at St. Norbert as a basketball player and ended as an All-American cross country and track runner. I met so many incredible people through running -- teammates and fellow competitors! I learned the true value of hard work and perseverance, which helped me achieve more success than ever I imagined possible  

Running will always have a special place in my heart, and I hope to continue running for years and years to come. But, best yet, I know I’ll be able to carry with me these experiences and lessons learned throughout my four years as a student-athlete at St. Norbert as I venture out in to the world beyond Division III athletics – as I journey through that little thing called life!

I will end with a quote that I have always loved, which I believe puts in to words the true essence and heart of Division III athletics:

"It's not about getting a scholarship, getting drafted, or making SportsCenter. It's a deep need in us that comes from the heart. We need to practice, to play, to lift, to hustle, to sweat. We do it all for our teammates and for the student in our calculus class that we don't even know.

We don't practice with a future major league first baseman; we practice with a future sports agent. We don't lift weights with a future Olympic wrestler; we lift with a future doctor. We don't run with a future Wimbledon champion; we run with a future CEO. It's a bigger part of us than our friends and family can understand. Sometimes we play for 2,000 fans; sometimes 25. But we still play hard. You cheer for us because you know us. You know more than just our names. Like all of you, we are students first. We don't sign autographs. But we do sign graduate school applications, MCAT exams, and student body petitions. When we miss a kick or strike out, we don't let down an entire state. We only let down our teammates, coaches, and fans.

But the hurt is still the same. We train hard, lift, throw, run, kick, tackle, shoot, dribble, and lift some more, and in the morning we go to class. And in that class we are nothing more than students. It's about pride - in ourselves, in our school. It's about our love and passion for the game. And when it's over, when we walk off that court or field for the last time, our hearts crumble. Those tears are real. But deep down inside, we are very proud of ourselves. We will forever be what few can claim ... college athletes."

Award winners