Nine student-athletes have been selected as finalists for the 2012 NCAA Woman of the Year award that will be announced on Oct. 14 during a ceremony in Indianapolis.
Finalists were selected based on academic achievement, athletics excellence and dedication to community service and leadership. Three women from each NCAA division were chosen.
The nine finalists are among 30 Woman of the Year honorees who will be honored during the event. The pool of 30 emerged from a group of nearly 430 nominees. It includes 10 honorees from each NCAA division who represent a range of NCAA sports.
Following are biographies of this year’s Woman of the Year finalists, including excerpts from their personal statements in the application materials.
Hillary Bach, Arizona State softball
As a Pat Tillman Scholar at Arizona State, Bach developed and implemented a fundraiser for United Way that has since become a national campaign. Bach served on the campus Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, serving in leadership roles of president, vice president and secretary. She also volunteered for the Special Olympics and Komen Race for the Cure, and mentored young athletes.
A softball team captain, Bach was twice named to the conference all-academic first-team and earned academic all-district VII recognition and National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America honors in 2011. Bach was a Maroon Scholar Athlete and a member of the President’s Honor Roll.
Bach was a member of Arizona State’s 2011 national champion softball team. In 2010, she received NFCA All-West Region All-America first-team honors and All-Pac-10 honorable mention on the field.
“Commitment to the ASU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee taught me the importance of effective leadership, and how communication can positively impact everyone from peers to the larger community. The student-athlete experience has inspired my passion to work in sports business, and has influenced my lifelong goal, which is to positively impact the lives of others.”
Grace Collins, Barry softball
Sunshine State Conference
Philosophy and History
During her time at Barry, Collins made an impact on her school and the community around her. Collins served as vice president for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and traveled to Nashville to assist with relief of the 2010 flood. She was a committee chair for Make-A-Wish Walk for Wishes, America’s Moms For Soldiers and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
A three-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association Scholar Athlete, she was named to the academic all-district team in 2011. She was the first student-athlete to win the Barry University President’s Award, which is presented to the most outstanding senior. In 2012, Collins received the university’s Excellence in Leadership Award.
Collins was named NFCA first-team All-South Region and first-team All-American in 2011. She also received Sunshine State Conference first-team accolades in 2011 and 2012.
“Collegiate athletics has taught me the importance of determination, hard work and undying passion. In life, everyone feels adrenaline and stress, makes mistakes and some successful strides. But it is those who learn to excel through adversity, manage stress, turn mistakes into learned lessons and handle achievements with humility who will ultimately succeed in the future. Collegiate athletics has empowered me with this competitive edge to not only handle any situation but to conquer it successfully.”
Kate Griewisch, Lenoir-Rhyne cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field
South Atlantic Conference
Banner Elk, N.C.
Griewisch dedicated much of her free time at Lenior-Rhyne giving back to the community. The four-year Student-Athlete Advisory Committee member served as a mentor to an elementary school student and spoke with high school students about her collegiate experience. Griewisch created an elementary school Science Olympiad and served on the Student Government Association’s treasure committee.
Griewisch received second-team academic All-America honors in 2011 and was a three-time South Atlantic Conference Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She was named to the dean’s list and served as the president of Chi Beta Phi, a math and science honor society.
Griewisch is a five-time first-team All-American in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. In 2009 and 2011, the South Atlantic Conference named her Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Year. The United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association named her indoor (2011-12) and outdoor (2011) Women’s Track Athlete of the Year for the Division II Southeast Region.
“My experiences as a scholar, an athlete and a leader on campus and in the community have reminded me of my blessings and helped form who I am.”
Kelsey Kittleson, Luther softball
Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
St. Ansgar, Iowa
At Luther, Kittleson earned a 4.0 undergraduate grade-point average and excelled not only in the classroom but also on the softball field. After playing first base her sophomore season, Kittleson received the Luther Softball Breakout Player of the Year award. As a catcher, she received the team’s Defensive Player of the Year honor in 2011 and was second-team all-Midwest region.
Kittleson also had a hand in saving her coach’s life after the coach suffered a heart attack. Kittleson’s courage and confidence enabled quick thinking during a time of desperation, and she hopes to save many more lives as an emergency medical technician. As an adaptive physical education assistant, medical center volunteer and personal caretaker, Kittleson has positively impacted many lives already.
Kittleson was a member of Luther’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee all four years and earned second-team All-America honors in 2012. That same year she became the first student-athlete to win the Academic Elite 89 Award three times in the same sport.
“I long to impact the lives of those around me, and mentoring, tutoring and coaching allow me to inspire others to dream. Four years at Luther College has shaped me to be everything I can and to motivate others to do the same.”
Sarah Jane Otey, Coast Guard rowing and swimming
New England Women’s & Men’s Athletic Conference
Marine and Environmental Science
A five-time NCAA qualifier in swimming and first-team All-American in rowing, Otey balanced her time at the Coast Guard among academics, two sports and volunteering for 12 months in Peru. She co-founded the Cadet Handbell Choir and volunteered for Big Brothers Big Sisters for four years. While in Peru, Otey built clean-burning stoves, taught English to children, worked in a clinic and helped build a playground for a Peruvian orphanage. Her humanitarian work in Peru cemented her purpose in life to help others.
Otey was a six-time All-New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference Academic Conference selection and garnered freshmen honors society accolades as a member of Alpha Lambda Delta.
Otey helped lead Coast Guard to a conference championship in rowing in 2008 and a sixth-place finish at the Division II championship.
“I joined the military to find a sense of purpose; to contribute to something bigger than myself. … The people I met in Peru defined success not by grades, athletics championships or accolades but rather by interpersonal relationships: family, friends and community. As a result, my idea of purpose and success now centers not on my achievements, but rather on my impact upon others.”
Brooke Pancake, Alabama golf
As a four-year member of Alabama’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and women’s golf team captain, Pancake was a campus and team leader. She also impacted the lives of those within the Tuscaloosa community, dedicating time at the Caring Days Center and to a disaster relief program. Following a tornado in April 2011, Pancake helped unload trucks, organize donated supplies and assemble meal packets.
She was named to the dean’s list every semester at Alabama and was a first-team academic All-American in 2011 and 2012. As a junior, Pancake received the Edith Cummings Munson Award, an accolade given to the student-athlete with the highest GPA among first-team All-Americans.
Pancake helped lead the Crimson Tide to their first national championship in 2012, and she finished second in the individual competition as well. A two-time first-team All-American, she also led Alabama to its first SEC championship in 2012.
“I have had the privilege of volunteering many times in the community during my college years, the foremost of which was serving those affected by the devastation of the April 2011 tornados. That experience will stay with me forever. The way this community came together, rose up and rebounded from that disaster created the greatest sense of pride I have ever felt during my Alabama tenure.”
Alexi Pappas, Dartmouth cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field
Creative Writing and English
Pappas pursued her passion for the arts at Dartmouth, graduating magna cum laude after being awarded multiple honors and awards for her work, including the 2012 Grogan-Hardly Prize in Literature as the student with the most promise in creative writing. In addition, Pappas received the Sidney Cox Memorial Prize for outstanding senior thesis, the Stanley Prize in English for promise in continued pursuit of education after Dartmouth and English High Honors as one of the top three students in the English Department. She earned Division I All-Academic team honors in 2011 and 2012.
Her passion for the arts was apparent in her community service too. She served as a writer, producer and director for the Dartmouth Displaced Student Theater Company where she helped with one full-length production and one short play. Pappas also served as a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, a student-teacher in the Arts Program and as a performer for the Dog Day Player Long-Form Improvisational Comedy Group.
Pappas was a leader on the cross country and track and field teams, serving as team captain in 2010, 2011 and 2012. A two-time All-American, she ran to a third-place finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2012 outdoor championships and was the lead leg on Dartmouth’s third-place distance medley relay squad at the 2012 indoor championships. Pappas also won the 2012 Ivy League title in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, running a personal best of 9:58.80 and qualifying for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in the event.
“Embodying bliss as team captain, writer and campus leader is more than just a next step in my athletics or artistic career – it is also a continued exploration of my understanding of the world.”
Elizabeth Phillips, Washington-St. Louis cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field
University Athletic Association
Homer Glen, Ill.
Phillips has been a dedicated student in the classroom, a leader on her team and a supporter of her community. The biomedical engineering major excelled in the classroom, graduating as class valedictorian. Named to the dean’s list every semester, she is an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship recipient and three-time Elite 89 Award winner. In addition, she was awarded the Harriet K. Switzer Leadership Award, presented to an outstanding senior woman who has made significant contributions to the university during her undergraduate years and has demonstrated exceptional potential for future leadership.
In cross country and track, Phillips served as the team captain, helping her team to the 2011 Division III cross country national championship. A six-time All-American in indoor and outdoor track and field, she holds school records in the 1,500-meter and distance medley relay.
As a community leader, Phillips dedicated numerous hours to volunteer activities, serving as a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, a coach for Girls on the Run and secretary and vice president for the Society of Women Engineers.
“I love the feeling that everything I do has a bigger purpose. Each race I run, all the pain I put myself through, all the sacrifices I make are not for myself but for my teammates. Running has taught me to be a better listener, a better motivator and a better leader. It has taught me the importance of determination, persistence and patience when trying to reach my goals.”
Verena Preikschas, California State Stanislaus tennis
Whether on the tennis courts, in the classroom or in the community, Preikschas left a lasting impression as a student-athlete at Cal State Stanislaus. Selected as the 2012 Cal State Stanislaus Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Preikschas thrived as a psychology major, maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA. She was a three-time ITA all-academic honoree and named twice to the CCAA all-academic team.
For her performance on the court, Preikschas was named the Cal State Stanislaus Female Athlete of the Year in 2009 and 2012. A captain of the tennis team all four years, she earned ITA All-America honors in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
In the community, Preikshas dedicated her time to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Sierra Vista Child and Family Services, and the Applied Behavior Analysis Research Team. A member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, she led fundraising efforts for the group.
“Being the team captain required me to lose some selfishness and practice humility and sacrifice. I had the chance to work with some of the most remarkable scholars in the field of psychology, which led me to academic excellence and the desire to do more research in the field of autism. However, getting to know families and friends in this community probably had the biggest impact on my life.”
Photos courtesy of respective schools’ athletic departments.