Junior Jen Bergman came to the University of Arizona in the fall of 2009 as one of 11 freshmen on the cross country and track and field teams.
Oct. 28, 2011
Tucson, Ariz. -
Junior Jen Bergman came to the University of Arizona in the fall of 2009 as one of 11 freshmen on the cross country and track and field teams. She came to Tucson from Valley Christian High School in San Jose, Calif., where she was given her team's Most Valuable Player award eight times and placed twice at the Footlocker Nationals. During her freshman year as a Wildcat, Bergman helped lead Arizona to an appearance at the NCAA Championships for the first time in nine years.
"When I was a senior going into college, I didn't want to go to one of the schools that were winning nationals like Washington, Oregon, those schools," Bergman said. "I wanted to be part of a team that was going to be good, not part of a team that was already great. Coach Erin Dawson told me about all the freshmen we were getting and it sounded exciting to me. Our whole goal for the season was to make nationals and now it's like `okay now we're going to make nationals, let's see how high up we can finish.'"
That mentality carries through and drives the runners to push themselves during races and practice. Bergman is improving with every race, using the momentum from the 2011 track season as motivation.
"She had a really good track season last year and gained a ton of confidence," assistant cross country coach Erin Dawson said. "I think this year has been a continuation of the track season and a really good, consistent summer of training. She was logging about 65 miles a week pretty consistently this summer and staying healthy doing it. She has a lot more in the tank. I don't think that you've seen all that Jen Bergman is going to accomplish so far this season."
This season, Bergman has finished in the top 15 in all three of her races. She started strong, placing second at the Dave Murray Invitational with a time of 16:29 in the three-mile race. At the Roy Griak Invitational, she finished third overall and first among the Wildcats with a 6,000-meter time of 20:42.4. Less than a month later, at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, Bergman dropped almost 20 seconds with a time of 20:25.1 and 15th place for the 6K race.
With her senior year still ahead of her, Bergman still has opportunities to drop more time from her races and build more confidence. Hanna Henson
stands as the only senior on the 2011 team, so Bergman and the other juniors have pitched in on the responsibilities that senior student-athletes usually have and filled leadership roles.
"They've had to take on that seniority of showing the eight new freshmen how things are done here and kind of instill that mentality of how to do things at practice and making sure they're doing all the little things that add up to the big picture, icing, stretching, weights, all that stuff," Dawson said. "Everybody looks up to Jen. She works hard and she gives it 100 percent every day in practice. The girls see her work ethic and they admire her for that and, whether she shows it vocally or through her actions, I think she's a really good leader for our team."
At the Wisconsin adidas Invitational earlier this season, the team had a chance to get a feel for what the field at nationals will be like and it was a good learning experience for the freshmen. Finishing in the top three in a packed field built confidence and excitement while giving the runners something to work towards with the championships season starting this weekend.
"We finished in 11th place (at nationals) last year, but I know we could have done better," Bergman said. "I didn't do my best at nationals. This year our team is looking so strong and everyone is fired up so we're definitely aiming to do better than 11th. Especially being ranked fifth, I am very pumped up."
In the summer of 2011, Bergman faced the challenge of going to Spain to study abroad while keeping up with her summer training. The expectations for the cross country season were high and she needed to maintain a consistent schedule, while also enjoying her experience in Spain. To her, and her coaches' relief, Bergman had the discipline to make her summer both fun and productive.
"My trip to Spain was awesome," Bergman said. "I was really nervous going because I wasn't sure how it was going to work out with training; if I was going to have the appropriate places to run or a weight room for cross training, but I got there and everything was perfect. There was a gym right next door to my apartment and my brother in Spain would bike next to me in the trails so it worked out really well."
This weekend at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships, Bergman hopes for a solid finish and to gain some momentum for a top-10 finish at the NCAA Championships in November. The team has come far in the past three years, and with the time and effort Bergman has put into her workouts and race, she knows that the future is bright for Arizona cross country.