JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Digging in her heels against some of the nation's best, Belmont Women's Track and Field's Hannah Wittman (Lindenhurst, Ill.) turned in one of the best performances of her collegiate career. She placed 12th in the 10,000-meters at the NCAA East Regional, officially qualifying to race next month at the 2016 NCAA Outdoor National Championship.
This will mark the second national championship this academic year for the Lindenhurst, Ill., native after placing in the top-85 at the NCAA Cross Country Championship in the fall.
Wittman becomes the first Belmont Women's Track athlete to qualify for the NCAA National Championship since Lynette Rives accomplished the feat in 2009.
When asked about her late rally in the final 400m to clench the 12th spot, Wittman said, "There was a point in the race, probably with nine laps to go, where I was doing everything in my power just to hang on. With 800m to go when I was in 13th place, I was starting to get discouraged and almost broke into tears. It took me a couple seconds to compose myself and once I heard all of the people supporting me, I was reminded that I was still in the race and could make it to nationals."
"I'm so thankful to have qualified for nationals and I know that it wasn't a product of my own doing," she continued. "So many people helped to pull me through and I'll always be grateful for that. Eugene, here we come."
"Wow, what a race," commented Assistant Coach Ashley Casavant. "What a representation of Hannah's grit and heart. She was in 13th place on the final lap and made a huge move at 200m. I'm so proud of her and the way she fought today."
Adding to a long list of accolades over the last four years, Wittman was more recently named the 2016 Ohio Valley Conference Female Track Athlete of the Year, becoming the first BU runner to earn the award since joining the league. The honor distinguishes Wittman as only the third women's track athlete in the history of the OVC to ever earn Runner/Athlete of the Year honors in both Cross Country and Outdoor Track and Field in the same academic year. In the fall, she was named Ohio Valley Conference Female Athlete of the Year, also becoming the first Bruin to garner the honor.
The 2016 NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships are slated for June 8-11 at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field. The finals of the 10,000m are set for Thursday, June 9 at 9:07 p.m. CT. The Championships will be broadcast live on the ESPN family of networks.
For more information about the 2016 NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships, please click here.