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2000 NCAA Woman of the Year

Kristy Kowal, University of Georgia

 

Georgia swimmer named NCAA Woman of the Year

Kowal ties honor to former winner, teammate

By Kay Hawes, The NCAA News, October 23, 2000

Kristy Kowal 2000 NCAA Woman of theYear

Kristy Kowal, a senior swimmer from the University of Georgia and a silver medalist in the Sydney Olympic Games, was named the 2000 NCAA Woman of the Year at the 10th annual NCAA Woman of the Year awards dinner October 15 in Indianapolis.

Kowal, who was chosen from among 10 finalists selected from more than 300 nominations, was recognized for her commitment to academics, athletics and community service.

"I did not expect this at all," said Kowal, who was noticeably surprised by her selection. "Swimming in front of 18,000 people in a Speedo is much easier than speaking in front of all of you.

"I'd like to thank the NCAA for this incredible honor, and I'd also like to thank the NCAA for its championships. There's nothing like striving to win an NCAA championship with your closest friends, your teammates."

Kowal accepted the honor on behalf of her former teammate, Lisa Ann Coole, who was the NCAA Woman of the Year in 1997. Coole died in a car accident in 1998. Coole's parents, Bill and Nancy Coole, represented their daughter at the dinner.

"Lisa was the captain my freshman year -- the hardest year," Kowal said. "She taught me the meaning of hard work and dedication. What I learned from her is what I like to pass on when I talk to kids.

"Lisa was one of those leaders who led by example. You would strive to be like her. She was just always there for us. She was a strong person with a good heart. She was killed (in a car accident) on her way to adopt a greyhound. Now, what does that tell you about her?"

Robin Roberts, ESPN and ABC sports commentator and anchor, shared the evening's master of ceremonies duties with Giselle Fernandez, a broadcast journalist who has been a regular contributor to CBS and NBC networks over the past decade.

Roberts, who hosts ABC's Wide World of Sports and serves as ESPN's play-by-play commentator for WNBA telecasts as well as frequently hosting ESPN's Sports Center, has emceed the NCAA Woman of the Year dinner since its inception in 1991.

In an evening themed, "A Decade of Excellence, a Future of Success," the NCAA also honored and cele brated the achievements of all 51 state nominees for Woman of the Year, giving special recognition to the 10 finalists.

Forty-four of the state nominees were present, as were nine of the last 10 Woman of the Year honorees. Cheryl L. Levick, athletics director at Santa Clara University and chair of the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics, paid special tribute to the previous winners, since this was the 10th anniversary of the award.

A 30-minute ESPN broadcast on December 6 at 2 p.m. Eastern time will feature highlights from the awards dinner.

A winner in life

While Kristy Kowal might be best remembered as an Olympic medal winner in Sydney, her athletics success is only part of what makes her a role model for young people.

Kowal's community service -- which has included volunteering with the Safe Kids project, serving food at homeless shelters, collecting food and clothing for needy families and speaking to elementary children about the importance of academics -- was so impressive that the Atlanta Boy Scouts recognized her with the "Peach of an Athlete" award for her service.

Kowal, who majored in early childhood education, would like to become an elementary teacher. She spent time her senior year of high school assisting her former fifth-grade teacher, and that experience inspired her to pursue elementary education.

"I love working with kids," she said. "My mom was a teacher, and I've always thought that being a teacher was a great way to make a difference in kids' lives."

Kowal also spends a great deal of time addressing children in her community-service work.

"I tell them to work hard, have fun and smile a lot," she said. "Work to your highest potential and never give up. Good things come to those who wait."

Kowal has been a Georgia Presidential Scholar and was named to the dean's list numerous times. Last year, she was selected as a Ramsey Scholar, an award bestowed on the top-10 student-athletes at Georgia. Kowal is a GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-American second-team selection and a three-time College Swimming Coaches Association of America academic choice.

"Athletics inspires competitiveness, and I believe that competitiveness carries over into the classroom," Kowal said.

Kowal's athletics excellence includes a silver-medal winning performance in the 200-meter breaststroke in the Sydney Games, where she represented the United States. The winner of eight individual NCAA championships in swimming, Kowal holds one world record and eight American records and is a multiple-event all-American.

Kowal led Georgia to NCAA Division I team championships in 1999 and 2000, and her individual accomplishments include 24 all-American performances. She was chosen as NCAA Swimmer of the Year for 1999 by the CSCAA, and the group picked her again as co-swimmer of the year in 2000, a year in which she also was picked as one of the United States Olympic Committee national female athletes of the month for all amateur sports.

A 13-time Southeastern Conference champion, Kowal became the first woman in conference history to take the conference title in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes four years in a row. Kowal's international success includes a world champion title in the 100 breaststroke, a performance in which she set an American record.

Jack Bauerla, the Georgia swim coach, was pleased to see Kowal honored.

"She deserves what she gets because she works hard for it," he said. "We're very proud for the University of Georgia to have had student-athletes like Kristy and Lisa (Ann Coole)."

Bauerla also noted that Kowal has overcome disappointments (missing qualifying for the 1996 Olympic Games by seven-hundredths of a second and missing qualifying for the 200 breaststroke this year by only .01.)

"With each disappointment, she only came back stronger. We're very proud of her."

And Kowal feels like her persistence has been rewarded.

"In my mind, I've had the perfect year. Three individual championships, the team repeating its national championship, winning an Olympic medal and now winning this award. It's been a dream year."

Only one thing would make it even better -- the presence of Lisa Ann Coole, who had her life ended before she could reach her goal of becoming a veterinarian.

"I would give all of my awards," Kowal said, "just to have her back."

 

Finalists:

Carolin Bouchard, Boston College, Basketball

Bouchard is a two-time all-Big East Conference selection and owns school records for three-point field goals made and attempted in a career. The team captain helped the Eagles to a No. 17 finish in the ESPN/USA Today poll for 2000 and was selected to compete for Canada at the Olympics in Sydney.

Graduating summa cum laude, the accounting major was named Boston College's Outstanding Female Scholar-Athlete four times and became the first student-athlete in school history to earn the university's highest honor, the Edward H. Finnegan Award. The Rhodes Scholar candidate also earned an NCAA postgraduate scholarship.

Bouchard appeared on Big East public service announcements, promoting diversity and tolerance. She also volunteered for the BC Athletics Pen Pal Program, the Higher Education and Assisted Reading program and numerous projects through the BC Women's Basketball Community Service program.

Bouchard: "During my time at Boston College, I learned that goal-setting, effort and teamwork can lead to success not only in basketball but in every aspect of life. Participating in college basketball has given me much more than I could have imagined. I discovered things about myself that I never knew, learned skills that will be with me throughout life, and became a more complete person."

Amanda Colby, Bates College, Volleyball

A middle hitter for the Bates volleyball team, Colby was an all-conference selection in 1999 and 2000, as well as a second-team all-American last year, leading her team to a second-place finish in the New England Small College Athletic Conference.

A biochemistry major, Colby was a second-team GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-American in 2000, and she is a three-time academic all-conference pick as well. Her work has been published in the research journal "Chiralty," and she was selected as a Merck fellow, receiving a grant to conduct independent research and help organize a scientific lecture series.

Colby has served as a mentor for local elementary school children, and she's also participated in numerous "read-ins" at the school. Her volunteer positions have included being a teacher's assistant, tutoring chemistry students and coaching high-school tennis. She's also served as a resident coordinator at her dormitory and as a lab assistant.

Colby: "The ups and downs of my own competitive experience as a collegiate athlete and the feedback I've received from coaches and players has taught me powerful lessons. When preparing to present my senior thesis to a group of faculty, I found myself going through the same motions as I do before an athletics competition. My involvement in athletics has helped me harness my energy, maintain my focus, and hold myself to high standards in many aspects of my life. For this, I will always be grateful."

Jessica Dailey, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Track and field/cross country

A twelve-time all-American in track and cross country, Dailey has served as team captain in both sports. She's a five-time first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick and a five-time second-team selection for the perennial conference winning Razorbacks.

Dailey is a summa cum laude graduate in journalism and a two-time GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-American. She's spent six consecutive semesters on the Fulbright College Honor Roll and Arkansas honor roll, and she's a three-time SEC academic first-team selection. She's also competed in a campus-wide moot court competition.

Dailey's work in the community has included assisting elementary students as a Hispanic Literacy Volunteer; working with the Arkansas Athletes Outreach, a character-building program for schoolchildren; and participating in an initiative with local libraries called "Let's read with the Lady 'Backs." Dailey also has assisted the St. Thomas Aquinas parish with youth activities and served underprivileged children in the Razorbacks for Christmas program.

Dailey: "The discipline I've learned through sports has taught me about balancing the competing demands of daily life. Perhaps someday my achievements and the way I went about reaching them can be the inspiration for a young girl to make the right choices and pursue life with that same balance that has made me a better person."

Jayne Even, North Dakota State University, Basketball

Even was honored as the Division II Women's Basketball Player of the Year and the winner of the Division II Honda Broderick Cup, signifying her as Division II's top female student-athlete. Even was the North Central Conference's scoring leader and player of the year and helped North Dakota State to a national runner-up finish in 2000.

The mass communications major was named to the GTE/CoSIDA College Division Academic All-American second team for 2000, and she also earned an NCAA postgraduate scholarship.

Even was the student-athlete spokesperson for the United Blood Services and also volunteered as a Bison Buddies coach, a Big Sister and helped with sandbagging efforts during the 1997 flood. Even was a reading mentor in the Fargo schools and organized a bike race for the St. Paul's Newman Center.

Even: "A letter addressed to me arrived one afternoon at the Bison Sports Arena. A single mother who regularly attended our games with her son, Jacob, authored the letter. She wrote from her soul and intensely shared the impact I made on Jacob by simply taking time to talk and be with him after our games. I was shocked and humbled by her kind words, and I realized the impression I made. ... Through participation in basketball, volunteer activities and academics, I was able to continually improve and display the principles of leadership, responsibility, teamwork and dedication. By exhibiting these qualities, I became a positive role model for children like Jacob."

Alia Fischer, Washington University (Missouri), Basketball

A three-time Women's Basketball Coaches Association Division III Player of the Year, Fischer helped Washington to three consecutive national titles and a 68-game winning streak. The Honda Broderick Award, given to the division's top female student-athlete, and the Lucy Lopata Award, given to the top female athlete at Washington, are just two of the honors bestowed to the school's all-time leader in scoring, rebounds, blocked shots and field-goal percentage.

Fischer graduated with majors in French and marketing, earning an NCAA postgraduate scholarship. She was honored as the GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year for 2000 and was a first-team Academic All-American team three other times during her career.

Besides volunteering for Mentor St. Louis and a community clean-up program called "Into the Streets," Fischer was a member of the school's Thurtene Honorary. The group is composed of the top 13 juniors at the university -- based on leadership, char-
acter and community service -- and the group organizes the largest and oldest student-run carnival in the country.

Fischer: "As a basketball player at Washington University, I experienced numerous team and individual accomplishments; however, the impact of athletics on my life cannot be measured in games won, points scored or records broken. Athletics provided me with a family away from home and relationships and experiences that I will cherish forever. Basketball gave me the opportunity to reach out to others and embrace the vibrancy of the campus, and it taught me the true meaning of balance."

Emily Haley, University of St. Thomas (Minnesota), Track and field/cross country

A team captain in track and cross country, Haley helped lead the Tommies to a first-place finish in the 400 relay in 1997. Haley, who has run on four conference championship relay teams, is a 14-time all-conference top-three finisher. She also participated on the 1997 team that finished second in the NCAA cross country championships, as well as on the 1,600 relay team at the 1998 NCAA championships.

Haley, who has nearly perfect marks, graduated summa cum laude with a degree in history and also is a premedicine major. Haley is a national dean's list honoree, an all-American Scholar and a 2000 GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-District selection.

Haley traveled throughout the world several summers as part of a youth mission with Royal Servants International, including a stint in a Chinese orphanage. She also has volunteered with autistic children, collected books for the Books for Africa project, and even performed at charity fund-raisers as a unicycling clown. She's served as a youth leader on a mission to Mexico, and is active with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Haley: "I am a cancer survivor, and I have learned to make the most of life and to thank God for His many blessings. When I was in the process of cancer treatment, running became both a physical and emotional outlet for me. Following my entrance into remission, my involvement in collegiate athletics enhanced my ability to feel healthy and alive once again. Seeking excellence fosters character, and it is my hope that character is a trait by which I am known."

Anna Hallbergson, Barry University, Tennis

An all-American doubles player in 1998 and an all-conference pick in 1999, this team captain also found success in singles, where she was all-conference both years. A leader on and off the court, Hallbergson was selected as Barry's Most Outstanding Senior in women's tennis this year, when she led Barry to a berth in the NCAA championship.

A summa cum laude graduate in biology and premedicine, Hallbergson earned perfect marks throughout her collegiate career. Hallbergson is the female recipient of the NCAA Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship, the Association's highest academic honor, and she has been chosen both the Scholar-Athlete of the Year and the Outstanding Biology Major at Barry for the last two years. A three-time winner of the National Collegiate Natural Sciences Award and a two-time GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-American, Hallbergson also is a published researcher.

She dedicates four hours per week to the Big Brothers/Big Sisters mentor program, and she also is a volunteer tutor and a biology mentor on campus. A Barry University Ambassador, Hallbergson also has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and the Jackson Memorial Hospital adopt-a-floor program.

Hallbergson: "Having set my goal to become a physician several years ago, I came to Barry not only to perform on the tennis court, but also to excel in the classroom, as a campus leader and as a member of the community. ... As an undergraduate premedical student-athlete, I have developed as a team player, a leader and as an independent critical thinker. My experience from involvement in academic classes, research, campus activities and athletics will serve me not only in medical school but also as a doctor and researcher."

Kristy Kowal, University of Georgia, Swimming and diving

The winner of eight individual NCAA championships in swimming, Kristy Kowal is the holder of one world record and eight American records. A member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team and a multiple-event all-American, Kowal led the Bulldogs to NCAA team championships in 1999 and 2000. Kowal has been a Southeastern Conference champion 13 times, and last season she became the first woman in conference history to win the 100 and 200 breaststrokes for four consecutive years.

Kowal, who majored in early childhood education, would like to become a teacher. She has been a Georgia Presidential Scholar and named to the dean's list numerous times. Last year, she was selected as a Ramsey Scholar, an award bestowed on the top-10 student-athletes at Georgia. Kowal is a second-team GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-American, and she was picked for the College Swim Coaches Association all-academic team in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Kowal has received the "Peach of an Athlete" award from the Atlanta Boy Scouts for her community service efforts. She's served as a volunteer with the Safe Kids project -- helping ensure children are safe in their car seats -- and as a speaker at a 1999 Youth Education through Sports clinic. Kowal has served food at homeless shelters, collected food and clothing for needy families and spoken to elementary children about the importance of academics.

Kowal: "Swimming has taught me discipline to balance my swimming career around my academics. I strive to show the same competitiveness in the classroom as I do in the swimming pool because I know that when my swimming career is finished, my education will be priceless. ... One of the most important lessons I have learned through my success in swimming is the value of being a role model. I have worked in swim camps talking to children, and I see in their eyes that they are looking up to me and hanging on every word I speak. I realize the importance of setting an example to them, not only as an athlete but also as a student. In the future, I aspire to be an elementary school teacher. I know my children in the classroom will look up to me as a role model, and it is my duty to teach them that the value of an education never runs out."

Gabrielle Rose, Stanford University, Swimming and diving

A 22-time all-American, Rose is a three-time NCAA champion and team co-captain who helped lead the Cardinal to a 1998 national championship, second-place finishes in 1997 and 1999, and a third-place finish in 2000. Rose -- whose mother is from Brazil and whose father is from the United States-- swam for Brazil in the 1996 Olympics, but she is on the U.S. Olympic team for the Sydney Games.

Rose graduated from Stanford this June with a degree in American Studies, and she is a first-team Pacific-10 Conference academic selection.

Rose has served as a volunteer swim instructor for children, and she's also helped organize the Youth Olympics, an annual event at Stanford. She represented women's swimming on the Cardinal Council, a Stanford forum that discusses student-athlete concerns, and she also has spoken to children at middle schools, high schools and Stanford Swimming Camps about the value of academics and athletics.

Rose: "As co-captain, my vision was for the team to put our whole hearts and minds into training and believe in each other as champions. Though underdogs for the first time in years, we asked the team to commit fully to Stanford's winning tradition and to one another so we could become the closest team of our four-year Stanford swimming experience. ... I leave my collegiate career knowing that all the hard work and sacrifice, personally and as a team, paid off. In that final test, I found the depth of commitment and connection with my team and uncovered something far greater than myself. My vision for the team had become a reality."

Phylesha Whaley, University of Oklahoma, Basketball

Whaley, the 2000 Big 12 Conference Player of the Year, earned a number of athletics accolades in 2000 while helping Oklahoma to the conference championship and an NCAA tournament Sweet-16 finish. The team captain and four-time team most-valuable player is Oklahoma's all-time leading scorer and an all-American, as well as a third-round pick in the Women's National Basketball Association draft, where the forward became a member of the Minnesota Lynx.

A sociology major, she graduated in May and has been honored twice as an all-Big 12 academic team member. Whaley also has been selected four times as a Sooner Scholar and as a member of the Commissioner's Honor Roll.

Whaley has volunteered for Meals on Wheels, Sooner Big Sis, City Sights Tour, Special Olympics and the Children's Miracle Network. For many of those projects, she served as team leader. Whaley also was a member of the Oklahoma Student-Athlete Advisory Board, and she was selected as an OU Athletic Leader, the athletics director's leadership award.

Whaley: "Growing up in the small town of Slaton, Texas, in a single-parent home, I learned early on in life that pursuing a college education was important to me and my family. ... The use of time management became vital as I took an active role in the team's community-service projects. I became a leader and role model for the underclassmen. I learned how to balance all the demands, on and off the court, that a Division I athlete must face. Each was a challenge for me at first. With the help of the coaching staff, my determination and support from my family, I became an educated woman who learned she has something to offer others and who learned the value of giving back to whatever community I belong to. Oklahoma's athletics department's internal slogan is 'Building Champions for Life.' I am real proof that the saying is a reality at OU."

 

State Winners:

  • Alabama: Lexa Wyndham Evans, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Gymnastics
  • Alaska: Leisha Jenkins, University of Alaska Anchorage, Gymnastics
  • Arizona: Carolyn Adel, Arizona State University, Swimming and diving
  • Arkansas: Jessica Dailey, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Indoor and outdoor track and field/cross country
  • California: Gabrielle Rose, Stanford University, Swimming and diving
  • Colorado: Melissa Bouren, Adams State College, Indoor and outdoor track and field/cross country
  • Connecticut: Bethany Hart, University of Connecticut, Indoor and outdoor track and field
  • Delaware: Sarah Edwards, University of Delaware, Lacrosse
  • District of Columbia: Katrina de Boer, Georgetown University, Indoor and outdoor track and field
  • Florida: Anna Hallbergson, Barry University, Tennis
  • Georgia: Kristy Kowal, University of Georgia, Swimming and diving
  • Hawaii: Raylene Howard, University of Hawaii, Manoa, Basketball
  • Idaho: Gloria Butler, Boise State University, Outdoor track and field
  • Illinois: Mary Ellen Hill-Schupbach, Bradley University, Cross country/indoor and outdoor track and field
  • Indiana: Sally Northcroft, Ball State University, Field hockey,
  • Iowa: Shannon Perry-Wieland, University of Northern Iowa, Volleyball
  • Kansas: Dawn Cady-Sullivan, Kansas State University, Volleyball
  • Kentucky: Amanda McCracken, Centre College, Cross country/swimming and diving/indoor track and field
  • Louisiana: Lisette Lee, Louisiana State University, Golf/swimming and diving
  • Maine: Amanda Colby, Bates College, Volleyball,
  • Maryland: Gina Melissa Dean, Salisbury State University, Field hockey
  • Massachusetts: Carolin Bouchard, Boston College, Basketball
  • Michigan:Kacy Davidson, Albion College, Basketball and softball
  • Minnesota: Emily Haley, University of St. Thomas (Minnesota), Cross country/outdoor track and field
  • Mississippi: Courtney Blades, University of Southern Mississippi , Softball
  • Missouri: Alia Fischer, Washington University (Missouri), Basketball
  • Montana: Megan Marie Harrington, University of Montana, Basketball
  • Nebraska: Janet Dutton, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Indoor and outdoor track and field
  • Nevada: Jennifer Collins, University of Nevada, Skiing
  • New Hampshire: Kristin Anderson, Colby-Sawyer College, Volleyball
  • New Jersey: Susan Rea, Princeton University, Basketball/Soccer
  • New Mexico: Kate Dunn, New Mexico State University, Golf
  • New York: Ria Megnin, Hartwick College, Cross country/indoor and outdoor track and field
  • North Carolina: Cecilia Louise Shinn, East Carolina University, Basketball
  • North Dakota: Jayne Even, North Dakota State University, Basketball
  • Ohio: Aleashia Washington, College of Wooster, Basketball/softball/outdoor track and field
  • Oklahoma: Phylesha Whaley, University of Oklahoma, Basketball
  • Oregon: Tarrah Beyster, Oregon State University, Softball
  • Pennsylvania: Irini Hazatones, Millersville University of Pennsylvania, Field hockey
  • Rhode Island: Katherine Saul, Brown University, Rowing
  • South Carolina: Ginger Denison, Furman University, Indoor track and field
  • South Dakota: Tracy Cleveland, Northern State University, Indoor track and field
  • Tennessee: Jennifer Bulkeley, University of the South, Basketball
  • Texas: Jackie Bucher, Abilene Christian University, Basketball
  • Utah: Denise Jones, University of Utah, Gymnastics
  • Vermont: Amanda Peters, Middlebury College, Field hockey
  • Virginia: Casey Taylor, Christopher Newport University, Indoor and outdoor track and field
  • Washington: Heather Wallace, Seattle Pacific University, Cross country/indoor and outdoor track and field
  • West Virginia: Jennifer Zipf, West Virginia Wesleyan College, Volleyball
  • Wisconsin: Rebecca Uphoff, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point , Swimming and diving
  • Wyoming: Melody Friehauf, University of Wyoming, Volleyball