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1992 NCAA Woman of the Year

Catherine Byrne, University of Tennessee, Knoxville


Byrne humbly grabs award winner's spotlight

As published in The NCAA News, November 23, 1992


Catherine Byrne

Anne Byrne said her daughter would not be able to sleep. Catherine Byrne confirmed her mother's suspicion.

Catherine was finishing a whirlwind week in which she received the 1992 NCAA Woman of the Year Award in Chicago and then was whisked to New York City for promotional stops. After she re-turned to her hometown of Solon, Ohio, she was still going strong, even as midnight approached.

"It feels wonderful,” she said. "I couldn't be more surprised and honored.”

Perhaps she shouldn't have been surprised. Byrne earned the award with a 3.880 grade-point average (4.000 scale) in kinesiology, twice winning academic all-American honors. She earned all-America status 11 times in the swimming pool for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. And her community involvement accomplishments read more like the list of three people who don't have a full-time hobby like intercollegiate swimming.

She received the Torchbearer Award at Tennessee, the highest undergraduate honor bestowed by the university, given for leadership and community service. She worked with children at the Tennessee School for the Deaf, spent time with Down's syndrome kids and read to local schoolchildren.

Byrne was selected for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award from among 10 national finalists. Those 10 were selected from a group of 52 nominees one from each state, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Byrne thought her community service may have been the deciding factor.
"The average CPA for the 10 finalists was 3.860, so mine was not out of the ordinary;' she said. "Sports arc hard to compare. Some of the finalists were from individual sports like swimming, and some were from team sports. I don't think you can get as much recognition in a team sport because it is more subjective.”

Byrne said she felt the most honored when she heard NCAA President Judith M. Sweet describing her as "exemplifying the best of women's collegiate athletics in the 1990s."

"I met Judy, and she is so wonderful,”' Byrne said. "She said she was proud to be at the awards ceremony. She said she was humbled to be with all the finalists. We kept saying, ‘What do you mean, you're proud, after all you've done in college athletics?' I admire what she has done, and I appreciate her saying those things.”

Byrne says she will use the honor as an opportunity to speak about women's athletics. In fact, she doesn't feel she has a choice. "There is a responsibility that goes with this award, speaking out about women's athletics and being a role model to younger athletes,” she said.

"I think it is great that the NCAA is allowing women's athletics to be recognized.  So often men are the ones getting all the recognition. Someone recently compared this award to the Heisman Trophy. But the Heisman is just for athletics and just for one sport."

Byrne will be involved in a new community in January when she begins pursuing her master's degree in physical therapy at Emory University.

Her goal is to start working at a rehabilitation hospital "to get my feet wet." She hopes someday to open a practice in orthopedic physical therapy.

But for now, she will have to tend to being NCAA Woman of the Year and fitting one more duty into her already busy day.



Lisa Kay Arel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Julia M. Burdick, Washington University (Missouti)
Catherine Byrne, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Jennifer Cobb, Cornell University
Lori A. Detweiler, University of Arizona
Janet Louise Kruse, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Barb Pranger, University of Kansas
Nicole Scherr, South Dakota State University
Catherine Sharkey, Yale University
Penny Tollefson, Hamline University


Regional Winners:

Alabama: Katherine Kelleher, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
Alaska: Amanda Deuling, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Arkansas: Amber Nicholas, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Arizona: Lori A. Detweiler, University of Arizona
California: Tammy Story, University of Southern California
Colorado: Stephanie Frazier, University of Denver
Connecticut: Catherine Sharkey, Yale University
Delaware: Tara Elise Finnegan, University of Delaware
District of Columbia: Kristin McArdle, George Washington University
Florida: Holly Lloyd, University of Florida
Georgia: Debbie Frisk, Emory University
Hawaii: Heidi McElhaney, University of Hawaii
Idaho: Anna Staker, Boise State University
Iowa: Jennifer Brower, University of Iowa
Illinois: Andrea Lee Shane, Western Illinois University
Indiana: MaChelle Joseph, Purdue University
Kansas: Barb Pranger, University of Kansas
Kentucky: Kimberly Ina Monaghan, Centre College
Louisiana: Vicki Maria Chesnum, Nicholls State University
Massachusetts: Lisa Kay Arel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Maryland: Donna Lee Zubalik, University of Maryland, College Park
Maine: Jill E. Abrams, University of Maine
Michigan: May Tan, Northern Michigan University
Minnesota: Penny Tollefson, Hamline University
Missouri: Julia M. Burdick, Washington University (Missouri)
Mississippi: Gail Crick Eaves, University of Mississippi.
Montana: Shannon Michelle Cate, University of Montana
North Carolina: Elizabeth Ann Hancock, Wingate College
North Dakota: Lisa Ristau, North Dakota State University
Nebraska: Janet Louise Kruse, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Nevada: Tracey King, University of Nevada
New Hampshire: Debra Biche, Plymouth State College
New Jersey: Catherine A. Thurlow, Princeton University
New Mexico: Pauline Manser, University of New Mexico
New York: Jennifer Cobb, Cornell University
Ohio: Shantel I. Ransom, University of Toledo
Oklahoma: Tina Jean Gamboa, University of Oklahoma
Oregon: Martha Sheldon, University of Portland
Pennsylvania: Susan Robinson, Pennsylvania State University.
Puerto Rico: Melba Sanchez Torres, American University of Puerto Rico
Rhode Island: Geraldine Hendricken, Providence College
South Carolina: Liz Dolan, Clemson University
South Dakota: Nicole Scherr, South Dakota State University
Tennessee: Catherine Byrne, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Texas: Katy Arris, University of Texas at Austin
Utah: Melissa Marlowe Anglesey, University of Utah
Virginia: Run Neiss, Old Dominion University
Vermont: Erica Nourjian, Middlebury College
Washrngton: Kari McKay, Eastern Washington University
Wisconsin: Heather Taggart, University of Wisconsin, Madison
West Virginia: Koscrnary Kosiorck, West Virginia University
Wyoming: Kimberly Anne Smith, University of Wyoming.