St. Francis grad adds to growing list of collegiate track honors

After two seasons on the sidelines, St. Francis native Samanatha Rivard came into her first college competitive indoor track season with high aspirations.

Rivard began her collegiate career as a red-shirt freshman at Bemidji State University before transferring to the University of Minnesota, Duluth. She had to sit out the entire 2012-13 season because of the NCAA transfer policy.

University of Minnesota, Duluth freshman runner Samantha Rivard (St. Francis) won the 1-mile run at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships in a school record time of 4:50.3.

University of Minnesota, Duluth freshman runner Samantha Rivard (St. Francis) won the 1-mile run at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships in a school record time of 4:50.3. Submitted photo

The UMD freshman hoped to add her name to the Bulldogs record books in the distance events and figure out which of the three main events would be her focus: 1-mile, 3-kilometer or 5-kilometer.

“It’s been great being able to represent Duluth,” Rivard said. “I was going to try a bunch of different events and experiment where my best fit was.”

Not only did she succeed in setting a Bulldogs record, but she also won the 1-mile title at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships in Winston-Salem, N.C., March 15.

Rivard, the reigning Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and NCAA Division II Central Region Indoor Track Athlete of the Year, won a national title in a time of four minutes, 50.3 seconds. This was 4.36 seconds lower than her previous school record time and she became only the second indoor national champion for UMD and third overall national track title holder.

Rivard followed the milestone win with a third place finish (9:44.98) in the 3,000-meter run and a second all-american performance.

“The only tough part was not being able to celebrate the mile immediately after winning,” she said. “It was like, ‘keep your head in the game. You still have some unfinished business to attend to.’”

Rivard said having some familiar faces warming up and running with helped her focus.

Hannah Olson placed seventh to also earn All-American honors in the mile before Breanna Colbenson, the only true freshman in the field of 18 runners, gave Rivard a pep-talk before the two ran together in the 3K.

Duluth sent a school-record six athletes to nationals and finished 10th as a team after winning the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference title in February.

She earned the athlete of the year honors after a coaches vote by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association for the Central Region NCAA Division II award. She scored the most  individual points (28) at the NSIC Championships to garner Athlete of the Year hosted by Bemidji State University.

The Cross Country All-American won the 5,000-meter and mile and was runner-up in the 3,000 meter events to collect points.

“Our goals at nationals were to just go out there and have a blast and bring home some hardware and we did just that,” Rivard said.

As for the spring outdoor season, Rivard plans to compete in the 1,500-meter, 5,000-meter and possibly the 10,000-meter, “and just continue going after big things with my teammates.”

Jason Olson is at
jason.olson@ecm-inc.com

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