Katie Jo McMenamin '16 saved her best for last, winning the 1,500-meter run and placing second in the 5,000-meter run at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships on Saturday, May 28, from Waverly, Iowa.
McMenamin’s accomplishments on the track place her among rare company in the history of Swarthmore athletics. She is the first NCAA national champion in the history of the track and field program and she is the first Swarthmore woman to win an NCAA title of any kind. The title marks Swarthmore's first NCAA national championship since the 1990 men's tennis team won the crown.
“It still hasn't really sunk in that I won or that it's all over, but I can't imagine a better way to end my Swarthmore running career,” says McMenamin, a native of Lafayette, Colo. who finishes her career as a three-time All-American.
The national championship came as part of a whirlwind day for McMenamin: in a 24-hour span beginning Saturday afternoon, she won a national championship, celebrated her 22nd birthday, and traveled over 1,000 miles back to Swarthmore to receive her degree in engineering at commencement on Sunday morning.
It all began on Saturday afternoon in Iowa on the campus of Wartburg College, where McMenamin won the 1500-meter run at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships with a blistering time of 4:24.33, a new program, Centennial Conference, and stadium record. Just a few hours later, she placed second in the 5,000-meter run, finishing with a time of 16:44.02. She entered the championships with Division III’s second-best 5,000-meter time and third-best 1500-meter time and a championship was always the ultimate goal.
"My goal was to win a national championship, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to go for it in the 1,500 or the 5,000 until near the end of the season,” she says.
The accomplishments are extra sweet for McMenamin, who missed the entire 2014-15 track season and the 2016 indoor track season due to injuries.
“Injuries have made me really thankful just to have been able to compete this season, let alone run as well as I have,” she says.
Following the 5,000-meter run on Saturday night, the race back to campus for commencement began. McMenamin and head track and field coach Pete Carroll drove five hours to Chicago, stayed at a hotel and caught a 5:40 a.m. flight back to Philadelphia.
“We didn't get a lot of sleep, but we landed at 8:30 a.m. and made it to campus around 9:25 a.m., so we ended up having plenty of time, ” she says.
Looking back, McMenamin credits her teammates, classmates, and coaches for helping her reach her goal.
“I've had a lot of teammates to look up to over the past four years and am honored just to have been able to represent our program at the highest level,” she says. “It's really a team more than an individual accomplishment and that's what makes it so meaningful.”