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Matthew Semisch | | March 15, 2014

Wisconsin-Oshkosh's Cazzola ends career as champion

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Collegiate distant runners never come much more heralded than Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Christy Cazzola, but even she couldn’t have pictured how her indoor career with the Titans would end.

Competing in the 3,000 meters Saturday at the Division III indoor track and field championships, Cazzola found herself in fourth place going into the final lap. However, the senior Titan fought all the way back in the final 200 to win the race.

Qualifiers released
That clinched her third national title this weekend alone. The 28-year-old anchored UW-O’s distance medley relay champions Friday before defending her mile run national championship on Saturday.

She came from behind in that mile race, too, and beating Luther’s Tricia Serres by half a second.

Cazzola also picked up three individual national championships a year ago at the 2013 NCAA DIII indoor meet in Naperville, Ill, having won the 5,000, mile run and anchoring the Titans’ distance medley relay team.

After this year’s indoor finals at Lincoln’s Bob Devaney Sports Center, Cazzola now sees her indoor collegiate career come to a close with an eye-popping six individual national championships and a hand in eight team titles.

To her, the biggest of those team titles arrived early Saturday evening. The 2014 DIII indoor meet saw Oshkosh pick up its second national championship in a row, third in the past four years and 10th all time.

After her victory in the 3,000 boosted the Titans to yet another team national title, Cazzola said clinching that last team title had been the most important thing in her mind.

“It felt great to end my indoor career with a race I’d never really run until this year and is new with the 3K, and I didn’t know I was going to be able to come back this season and run the way I did last year,” Cazzola said of her final indoor event.

“I wasn’t running the same times and didn’t have the same training in the fall, so it was actually really nice to come here and just help the team get some points and come away with a national title. That’s the best way a senior can go out.”

The 2014 edition of the indoor championships was the first where men’s and women’s 3,000 races took place. It’s an exciting event to watch, with or without knowing a team national championship is on the line.

That event was relatively new for the student-athletes taking part. Cazzola said, however, that prior experiences -- including earlier events this weekend -- and the lessons learnt therein gave her an idea of what to expect in the first 3,000 indoor championship event.

“For me, I tend to enjoy the 800 meters up to the 5K, so I enjoy all the races, and in any of them I just have to go on how I feel,” Cazzola said. “And with having the mile preliminaries [on Friday] and the DMR final and a mile final already under the belt, I really just needed to sort of relax in front of the race.”

It wasn’t just yet another individual national championship on the line, though, and she knew that.

“I also knew that the team needed those points [from the 3,000-meter race], so I just tried to wait until I knew I had to go turn it on,” Cazzola continued, “And when that time came, that’s when I did it.

“It’s just having experience and knowing what to do in a race and knowing what you’re capable of, and it’s also trusting yourself that that’s going to be good enough, and it means everything knowing winning would’ve won the meet for the team, so that’s part of what got me through.”

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