TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Swarthmore senior Cait Mullarkey (Wilmington, Del. / Ursuline Academy) earned All-American honors Saturday afternoon, finishing fifth in the mile at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships held in the Rose-Hulman Sports and Recreation Center.
Mullarkey posted a time of 5:00.16 in the finals, becoming the second Swarthmore female to be All-America for indoor track, joining Imo Akpan ’02, who received the honor for 400 meters in 2002.
“On Friday (at qualifying) my head was spinning,” said Mullarkey, holder of three school track records (indoor mile, indoor 5,000, outdoor 3,000 steeplechase), “but when we arrived at the track today, I had total focus.”
Mullarkey posted the third-best time in the preliminary round Friday night (5:00.30), automatically qualifying for Saturday’s final.
“Cait ran great on Friday night, scoring the automatic qualifying time,” said Garnet head coach Peter Carroll. “The pressure was off after that and we decided to go for it, see how many runners we could beat.”
Mullarkey, sporting her brilliant red hair in a high ponytail on Saturday, started on the outside of the track in alley two, immediately dashing low to get position behind the two leaders at the starter’s signal.
“The leaders went out slower than Friday night,” said Mullarkey, owner of eight Centennial Conference medals, including a gold at 800 meters in 2007. “Our strategy was to stay on the lane line between lanes 1 and 2, and not get blocked in.”
Mullarkey’s first 800 meters clocked approximately 2:36 and she sat comfortably in fourth position, tucked in behind a pair of All-Americans.
“We wanted to stay behind the major players and stay out of trouble,” explained Carroll, who has coached 16 All-Americans in stints at Swarthmore and Franklin & Marshall Colleges. “When they flinch, you flinch. Cait did a wonderful job of protecting her space while waiting to kick.”
The leaders sprang out in the final two laps and Mullarkey turned on the jets as well, inching away from the trail pack. “I was able to trust my kick,” she said.
The quick finish to the finish (Mullarkey posted a time of 2:23 in the second 800 meters) gave Mullarkey the cushion she needed to maintain fifth place. “I could hear the Colby girl coming in the final 100 meters and I put all my focus on closing closer to the Calvin runner.”
Mullarkey out-kicked two competitors to the finish line by less than a second, including Lauren Paulsen from Johns Hopkins. Paulsen, the Centennial Conference record holder in the event, had beaten Mullarkey by over two seconds at the 2009 Conference Indoor Championships in February.
“Amazingly, Cait went from fourth at Conferences to fifth at nationals,” exclaimed Carroll. “Many of the runners doubled in the distance-medley event, including Paulsen, and others spent energy chased NCAA qualifying times for five straight weeks. Cait came in well-rested, and her intensity and focus shone through today.”
Mullarkey qualified for the NCAA Championships after winning the mile at the 2009 E.C.A.C. Division III Indoor Championship last weekend. At Tufts University in Boston, Mass. the senior topped 12 runners with a school record time of 4:59.59; it was the third time this season she shaved time off her record time.
“It’s a long time coming,” Mullarkey said of the All-American honors. She flew back from Boston late on March 7 and was up at 6 a.m. on March 8 to catch the bus to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with her teammates, preparing for the upcoming outdoor season. “My teammates were all training hard, setting a base for outdoor and I was just loafing around, jogging here and there. Their support helped me focus and achieve this personal goal.”
Mullarkey, an honors biology major, has already received a host of accolades in 2008-09, both in the classroom, and on the field and track. The 30th Swarthmore student to win a coveted Rhodes Scholarship earlier this fall, Mullarkey captained the Swarthmore women’s soccer team to a second consecutive E.C.A.C. South Region Championship after becoming the first defender in Centennial history to make First-Team All-Conference all four years. A three-time All-Region performer on the soccer field, Mullarkey was named ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America, Scholar Athlete by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (N.S.C.A.A.) and Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Star. She has twice been named Centennial Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Week, and posted NCAA provisional qualifying times in both the mile and the 5,000 meters during the 2008-09 indoor season.
Swarthmore now totals ten female track & field All-American selections: Desiree Peterkin ’00 (outdoor triple jump in 1997, ’98, ’99 and indoor triple jump in ’98, ’99), Catherine Laine ’98 (indoor triple jump in ’98), Jokotade Agunloye ’01 (outdoor 5,000 and 10,000 meters in 2001) and Akpan (indoor and outdoor 400 meters in ’02).
2009 NCAA Division III Indoor Women’s Mile Final
1 Ayla Mitchell, Sr, Wisconsin Oshkosh 4:54.66
2 Marie Borner, Jr, Bethel University(Mn) 4:55.41
3 Ashley Schnell, So, Coe College 4:55.95
4 Lauren Bergstrom, Sr, Calvin College 4:59.50
5 Caitlin Mullarkey, Sr, Swarthmore College 5:00.16
6 Emma Linhard, So, Colby College 5:00.44
7 Laura Paulsen, Jr, Johns Hopkins 5:00.92
8 Rachelle Hawkins, Sr, Cornell College 5:02.81
9 Elizabeth Webb, Sr, Washington & Lee 5:03.90
10 Tiffany Kulp, Sr, Elizabethtown College 5:13.68