2 swimmers and 1 diver were named among 9 finalists for the 2016 NCAA Woman of the Year Award.
Guo and Townsend, the two swimmers, are both from NCAA Division III power houses, while McCormack dives at Miami – one of the country’s top diving programs.
To be eligible for the award, an athlete must have earned a varsity letter in an NCAA-sponsored sport and completed eligibility in that sport. Each school is able to nominate 1 woman from across their athletics program and the NCAA Woman of the Year selection committee chooses the ultimate winner on the basis of academic achievements, athletics excellence, community service, and leadership.
Full bios on each of the 3 aquatic athletes are below. For the full list of finalists, click here.
School: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Conference: New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference
Sport: Women’s swimming and diving
Majors: Electrical engineering and computer science; biological engineering
Hometown: San Diego
Excerpt from personal statement: “Through the last 15 years, 10,000 miles, and countless memories of laughter and tears, swimming has morphed from a personal avocation to my vehicle towards becoming a physician-scientist and pushing the limits of medical technology. … For, through the eyes of a swimmer, there is no limit to the possible.”
Margaret Guo was an Amgen Scholar and Griffith Lab researcher all four years during college and later served as president of the MIT Society of Women Engineers. During her time in college, Guo co-authored two scientific studies and currently has two patents pending in the medical technology field.
Guo earned a perfect 5.0 grade-point average on a five-point scale as a double major in electrical engineering and computer science, and biological engineering. In 2015, she won the NCAA’s Elite 89 Award, now called the Elite 90 Award, which is presented to the student-athlete with the highest grade-point average who is competing at a national championship finals site. She was named a Rhodes finalist and Goldwater scholar in 2015, and received the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award in 2016. In 2015-16, Guo was named the College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-American of the Year for the Division III women’s at-large team.
While competing for the MIT swimming and diving program, Guo was a member of the 200-yard freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay, the 400 medley relay and the 200 medley relay teams. She and her relay teammates set NEWMAC records in three of her events at the conference championships in 2016. She earned six all-conference honors, and five All-America honors from the College Swimming Coaches Association of America. Beyond her relay achievements, this year also marked the first time in which she has individually qualified for the Division III Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships.
School: University of Miami (Florida)
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
Sport: Women’s swimming and diving
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Excerpt from personal statement: “Although my diving career is over, I am now taking a new plunge into another opportunity: research in the medical field. My next step is a Ph.D., followed by teaching and continued advocacy for young women to follow their passions. I therefore thank my collegiate career for making me the woman I am today, and for allowing me to continue to spread this strength to others around the world.”
Kara McCormack embraced her platform as a student-athlete as a way to lead others on her campus, in her community and on a global scale. The University of Miami (Florida) swimming and diving team captain served on the Atlantic Coast Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. She also volunteered as a pen pal with children at a local elementary school, taking advantage of the opportunity to encourage young girls to pursue interests in math and science. In addition, she went on a trip to rural Vietnam as part of the Coach for College program, where she taught ninth-grade physics and encouraged kids to persevere and attend college.
McCormack made the dean’s list every semester and graduated with a nearly perfect grade-point average in mathematics. She earned three nods as a member of the all-Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Team and received the ACC postgraduate scholarship in 2016. She was inducted into multiple honor societies on campus, and in 2016, was inducted in to the Iron Arrow Honor Society, which is the highest honor for a Miami student who exemplifies love of alma mater, character, leadership, scholarship, and humility. McCormack is now in the process of pursuing her doctorate in mathematics.
In 2013, McCormack was named the ACC Diver of the Year after winning the conference championship on the diving platform. The three-time College Swimming Coaches Association of America All-American qualified for the NCAA championships in 2016 in the 1-meter and 3-meter diving events. She also competed at the Olympics trials for USA Swimming in 2012.
School: Kenyon College
Conference: North Coast Athletic Conference
Sport: Women’s swimming and diving
Major: International studies, with a concentration in Islamic civilization and cultures, and a minor in Arabic
Hometown: Greenwood, Indiana
Excerpt from personal statement: “My simultaneous experiences – as a scholar, an athlete and a leader – allowed me to find greater success than I would have from focusing on any one component exclusively. This synergy propelled me throughout my time at Kenyon and during my abroad experience, and will continue to shape my adult life.”
Haley Townsend used her experience as a swimmer to immerse herself more deeply in the communities around her, both in the United States and during a study-abroad experience in Morocco, where she taught English to Moroccan students and joined a swim team to better know and understand the local community. Domestically, she volunteered in the Kenyon College community, tutoring local high school students, volunteering as a swimming camp counselor and hosting future students on campus visits. She also worked with the Middle East Student Association, serving as the group’s journal editor her senior year and redesigning the journal for a digital format.
An international studies major with a minor in Arabic, Townsend graduated summa cum laude and earned a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Fellowship in Turkey, though the program was later discontinued due to unrest in the region. The three-time CoSIDA Academic All-American earned the 2014 NCAA Elite 89 Award, now known as the Elite 90 Award. She also was recognized by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America as a Scholar All-American for four years, and earned a 2016 NCAA postgraduate scholarship.
Townsend, a swimming and diving team captain, helped lead her team to one conference championship and three second-place finishes at NCAA championships. In individual and relay events, Townsend was a seven-time conference champion, and won the 2013 national championship in the 400-yard medley relay. She is a 16-time CSCAA All-American, holds three school records and the national meet record for the 400-yard medley relay.