From the sideline to the national podium

Sarah Glidden wins Pentathlon national title after a year away


Photo by Kar Wei Cheng

Glidden participated in the 60 meter hurdles, the high jump, shot put, long jump and the 100 meter dash at the in Birmingham, Ala. She came home a national champion a year removed from the track due to injury.


Many success stories are about a protagonist who stands out from the crowd, ready to compete for what they love, only to have their chance be ripped away due to a plot-halting obstacle. The protagonist must then overcome this challenge to end their story.

These stories may be so common because of the truth behind them. Sarah Glidden’s journey proves this.

Jumping back into the race from a season-stopping injury, Sarah Glidden participated in a pentathlon in Birmingham Ala. to win a national title. March 9 changed the track career of the UW-Eau Claire senior, as she is now a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champion.

Glidden was out last season due to an injury that she suffered at the end of the indoor season her junior year. The injury forced her to the sidelines.

Glidden said her injury happened during the 4×4 relay at nationals: with only 100 meters to go she tore her lisfranc ligament in her right foot. The track star was participating in trials at the time, in which she was racing to qualify for the finals and for the chance to become an an All-American.

“When it first happened I thought that I wouldn’t be able to finish because it was so painful,” Glidden said. “That’s where my head was at, I was focused on finishing. After I finished I kind of broke down because I knew it would be a season ending injury.”

While cheering on her team from the sidelines, Glidden said it wasn’t easy.

“It was probably the most difficult thing I’ve done in athletics,” Glidden said, “I don’t like watching.”

The outdoor season of her senior year was her first time back on the track. Glidden said that it was difficult to reintroduce herself to the sport due to having a year off, and not being able to practice with her team. During this time she was on her own practicing and training to integrate smoothly back into the sport with no complications or further injury.

“We didn’t rush her back to training or competing until she was fully recovered, both physically and mentally,” Coach Chip Schneider said. “Sarah did the work to get back, we just waited for her to be ready.”

“That season was very difficult just because I couldn’t do everything that I wanted to do,” Glidden said. “I didn’t do the pentathlon, I couldn’t jump, I just ran, which I was thankful for.”

One motivator to get back into the sport was her team.

“It was hard to leave a team atmosphere, especially when they’re so supportive,” Glidden said. “That’s kind of like your life because you’re at practice for four hours a day and it’s hard to let that go.”

Coach Schneider was also an influence for Glidden to rejoin the Blugolds. According to Glidden, he is one of her role models and she didn’t want to disappoint him.

In addition to her team and coach, Glidden also mentioned the influence of her faith.

“My faith is important while competing, my team and I pray at most competitions, before every event.” Glidden said, “That gives you a platform to give God glory in this situation which is a cool thing to do.”

Her biggest motivators have also been her parents. She’s been running track since third grade and said that since high school, her parents haven’t missed a meet.

Despite doctors telling Glidden that she wouldn’t be able to compete at 100 percent because of the difficult recovery from the injury, she recovered well enough to take part in her final year of Blugold track and field.

“There was a lot of people who helped, my team was a really great support system overall.” Glidden said. “My coach was one of the best because he knew I’d be able to compete at a higher level again even when doctors didn’t. My coach knew how to push me to succeed at a high level. My parents too.”

Since being back, Glidden said that she’s been able to compete and participate normally and loves being with the team.

This season, Glidden came back with a vengeance. In February, Glidden won the 600 meter hurdle for Eau Claire at the conference meet in Stevens Point, as well as the 400 meter dash and the high jump. She qualified for the national championship pentathlon in Birmingham, Ala. to compete against peers from around the country.

During the NCAA championship, Glidden said she felt different being a “super senior” and it being the last time she’d be able to compete in the pentathlon. She said she tried to take everything in and remember that if she did her best in the events she would have the chance to come out with a win.

“Going into nationals I was confident just because I was having a decent season but I also felt a lot of pressure from being ranked number one going in,” Glidden said. That was also a motivator to do my best in every event and I was excited to be there, nationals was an awesome atmosphere to be in.”

Coach Schneider reflected on Glidden’s win and character.

“I know how hard she worked to be the best in the country.” Schneider said, “She is the most talented all-around athlete I have had the pleasure of coaching, but it’s her work ethic that makes her even more special. I know being a National Champion was her goal, so I was excited for her to achieve what she had set out to do.”