Nov. 20, 2010


By James Briggs
Special to

If Wendy Pavlus was nervous about defending her individual title Saturday in the NCAA Division III women's cross country championships, that anxiety vanished as soon as the race started—or didn't start.

A few seconds after the runners took off at Wartburg College, the gun sounded again, signaling a false start. The St. Lawrence University senior's title defense would have to wait a few more moments.

"I think it kind of helped me run some nerves out," Pavlus said of running the first 20 yards and then having to return to the starting line.

Once the race bean for real, Pavlus got off to a strong start and won her second straight national championship by a safe distance — 11 seconds in front of the next-nearest competitor, Jennifer Gossels of Williams College.

Just don't tell Pavlus it was a safe distance.

"I don't think there was any point where I really felt like I had it," she said. "Everyone was there (behind me) the whole time — it felt like that, at least. I was scared the whole time."

Pavlus said she can enjoy her second championship more than the first one.

"I feel like it means more as a senior," she said. "I can appreciate it a lot more. When you win it your junior year, you know you're coming back. I'm more appreciative."

Besides her two cross-country titles, Pavlus also won a national championship in indoor track and field last year. Still, she said she never felt overly confident heading into Saturday's race.

"I didn't think I would come here and I would run alone," she said. "That wouldn't be a national championship. I knew I had competition, and I didn't ever think I would run away with it."