Fort Wayne, Indiana native and fifth-year senior Abbey Brennan put an exclamation mark on her career as a part of Taylor women’s cross country and track and field. The 10-time All-American quietly went about her business and now leaves a legacy full of achievement matched with unwavering humility.
“It’s definitely been an amazing experience for me,” Brennan said. “Every year the team has just been close … and like a big group of friends … I’m so thankful that I came here and was on the team.”
Near the conclusion of the 2021-22 school year, Brennan said she questioned if she should return for a fifth cross country season. She talked it over with her coach, Quinn White, and ultimately decided to pursue a national title.
On Nov. 18, the Trojans capped off a perfect season and won the 2022 NAIA National Championships in Tallahassee, Florida. Not only that, but Brennan finished fourth as an individual and was one of seven Trojans to earn All-American honors.
“Afterwards, obviously we’re so thankful to God for giving us the opportunity,” Brennan said. “It was really cool seeing from last spring we were talking about it, like maybe should I stay … I think it was really cool seeing that hard work pay off.”
Brennan tallied four consecutive sub-18:00 5k times in closing her Taylor cross country career. Of these four, Brennan’s 17:19.40 time at the Great Lakes Challenge in Grand Rapids, Michigan established a program record.
This year’s postseason accolades may add a second recognition, but in 2021 Brennan achieved First-Team CoSIDA Academic All-American. In her traditional senior season, Brennan posted five top-10 finishes and ran five sub-19:00 times, including a previous career-best 17:54.3. To put it all in context, Brennan’s first two years produced a best time of 19:31.9.
White said that the summer before the 2021 cross country season Brennan trained with fellow fifth-year senior Giovanna Domene at her home in Fort Wayne. He believes this was a significant contributor to her exponential improvement.
“I think that and Abby making a decision, ‘Hey I had some success in track, I think I can do this in cross’ (contributed),” White said. “She just got that fire and started taking off and she had an outstanding year last year … and then (now) she took it to a whole other level.”
Brennan said she originally ran cross country to help with her track performance, but a new mindset as well as a better handle on her asthma freed up a breakout final two seasons.
Domene, a Brazil native, did an internship in the Fort Wayne area that summer and stayed with the Brennan family throughout its entirety.
When Domene first met Brennan their freshman years, she said they immediately bonded over being able to speak German. Road trips to cross country or track events helped grow their relationship, but none compared to living together.
“We would come back from work … and then go run almost every day together,” Domene said. “Having her I think helped us stay motivated for the season coming up … And I just got to know her family better which was actually really special.”
Watching Brennan go from a 20-minute 5k runner to an All-American standout, Domene said this dramatic change provides a great example for underclassmen who perhaps are not seeing themselves improve yet. Specifically pointing out the transition from high school to college, Domene said the kind of patience and resilience Brennan showed is invaluable to those coming after her.
Switching to track, Brennan competed as a distance runner, including the 600-meter, 800-meter, 1,500-meter and 4x800-meter relay.
In her final regular season outdoor meet of 2022, Brennan set a Taylor record for the 1,500-meter with a time of 4:33.53. That same outdoor season, Brennan traveled to Azusa, California for a meet against elite NCAA Division I runners and posted a career-best and program record time of 2:11.34 in the 800-meter.
White did not take any grandeur away from her several program records, but indicated Brennan’s signature track moment came at the 2021 Women’s Indoor Track and Field NAIA National Championships in Yankton, South Dakota.
Fresh off missing being All-American in the 600-meter by half a second, Brennan said she was disappointed but was able to flip her mindset for the 4x800-meter relay. Brennan was the leadoff runner and got off to an unimaginable start, a full straightaway separating her and the next competitor. She and fellow teammates Domene, Corrine O’Leary and Brooke Studnicki captured the NAIA National Title, with a five-second margin of victory and a time of 9:18.25.
“To me, that was just her ‘oh my gosh, crazy’ race and (she) and just set her team up for that national title there,” White said. “Again, that’s her right. She just goes out and does it.”