3 Swimmers, Diver Amongst NCAA Woman of the Year Finalists

Braden Keith
by Braden Keith 3

September 14th, 2011 College

In an update to a previous story, the NCAA has whittled down their finalists for the Woman of the Year award from 30 to 9, and amongst them are three swimmers and a diver.

The Arizona women’s swim team stays in contention to win their 4th award in 5 years, with 2010 NCAA 100 breaststroke champion Annie Chandler as the biggest-name swimmer on the list. Last year’s winner was Chandler classmate Justine Schluntz, and before her came Lacey Nymeyer (2010) and Whitney Myers (2008).

Besides her well-documented swimming pursuits, her major collegiate accomplishments included serving as the managing editor for the Tombstone Epitaph, a University newspaper, and served as a Peer Athletic Leader to help freshmen transition into the world of student-athletics.

There are three other very impressive aquatics athletes on the list. In Division II, Drury’s Kelsey Ward was amongst the finalists. As a senior, she was top-10 in the country in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyles for the National Champion Panthers. She also received a slew of academic awards, and amongst her community contributions were as an organizer of Drury’s annual blood-drive, and an organizer of the “Light the Night” campaign to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

In Division III, Laura Barito of the Stevens Institute of Technology made her mark by winning individual National Championships in both swimming (50 free) and track (400 meter hurdles) in the same season. As a senior, she was also named her conference’s (Empire 8 Conference) Swimmer of the Year, and was twice the Stevens athlete of the year. She had numerous academic accomplishments, including making ESPN’s All-Academic First Team.

Also in Division III was diver Hayley Emerick from Trinity University in San Antonio. She was the 2010 Division III National Champion on the 3-meter and placed second on both the 1-meter and 3-meter in 2011. Prior to her senior year, she spent 5 weeks working, volunteering in an orphanage, and teaching English in Costa Rica as part of an international volunteer program.

All four nominees are members of numerous honor societies, and it would hard to argue against any of them, or the other 5 nominees, winning the award.

All 9 finalists will be in attendance at an October 16th awards ceremony in Indianapolis, along with the rest of the top-30, in a weekend that will include a dinner in their honor and a weekend of service and an opportunity to connect with and act as role models to young girls in the city.

Below is the full list of finalists. Full bios for all 9 can be read at this link.

Danielle Blair, UAB, Soccer
Annie Chandler, Arizona, Swimming
Grace Johnson, Georgia, Gymnastics

Victoria Hansen, West Liberty University, Basketball
Hewenfei Elwen Li, BYU-Hawaii, Tennis
Kelsey Ward, Drury, Swimming

Laura Barito, Stevens Institute of Technology, Swimming/Track
Michaela Calnan, Bowdoin College, Field Hockey/Ice Hockey
Hayley Emerick, Trinity (TX), Diving

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Barito should win this one. She came to college as a 26+ 50 freestyler and leaves as National champion with a 22 high. Then in a sport (track and field) she only started competing in because she needed to do more training in swimming’s offseason, she wins a national title. I know the award isn’t about athletics in general, but it’s pretty remarkable and not something we’re likely to see again for a long time.


Well, since the award IS more than about athletics; it has to be noted that Barito pulled this off while finishing her undergrad in Mechanical Engineering with a 3.8+ GPA and awards from Engineering Honor Societies as well as national All American Academic awards in both Swimming and Track.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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