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9 finalists announced for 2017 Woman of the Year Award

Nine former college athletes have been selected as finalists for the 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year Award and will be honored at an awards dinner Oct. 22 in Indianapolis.

The 2017 Woman of the Year will be named at that event.

Three women from each NCAA division were selected. Their college careers are highlighted by outstanding achievements in academics, athletics, community service and leadership.

The nine finalists were chosen from 30 Woman of the Year honorees, who will be recognized during the event. This group of 30 includes 10 honorees from each NCAA division and represents a range of sports.  Schools nominated 543 college athletes for the award.

Following are biographies of the Woman of the Year finalists, including excerpts from their personal statements in the nomination materials:

Sabrina Anderson

School: Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania
Conference: Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference
Sport: Indoor and outdoor track and field
Major: Exercise science
Hometown: Warren, Pennsylvania

“I spent two summers with (a man suffering from a degenerative disorder since childhood), a man who refused to let his disability limit him, and though it was my responsibility to help him, I found that he ended up changing my life in the process.”

During her time in college, Sabrina Anderson devoted her personal time to working with organizations within the medical field, including volunteering at Warren General Hospital and as an intern with Specialty Orthopaedics, where she trained clients with disabilities and diseases about personal heath, including developing physical training and wellness plans.

Anderson excelled in the classroom, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in three years, earning a 3.91 GPA in exercise science with a minor in business administration, before completing her master’s in business administration with a perfect 4.0 GPA during her fourth year of eligibility. During her time in college, Anderson garnered three College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-America honors. She was named a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Scholar-Athlete for four straight years and is a two-time recipient of the PSAC Pete Nevins Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award, presented to top student-athletes who have achieved at least a 3.5 cumulative GPA while competing at an outstanding athletic level. She also made the dean’s list every semester and the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic Team for each athletics season.

On the track, Anderson won five individual conference titles, including the 2015, 2016 and 2017 indoor pentathlon, the indoor 60-meter hurdles in 2016 and the outdoor heptathlon in 2016. She currently holds the conference record in the pentathlon. Her successes helped carry Slippery Rock to two team conference indoor championships, as well, in 2014 and 2016. Anderson earned two USTFCCCA All-America honors and 10 all-conference honors, while finding the time to also compete in Olympic weightlifting and qualify for NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior.”

Learn more about Sabrina Anderson

Serena Barr

School: Liberty University
Conference: Big East Conference (associate member)
Sport: Field hockey
Major: Public health: health promotion
Hometown: Lurgan, Northern Ireland

“Through (my sister Charlene), I learnt the importance of steely determination. Watching her battle (cystic fibrosis) inspired me to never give up but to pursue my academic and athletic dreams while endeavoring to put other people’s needs before mine.”

Serena Barr holds a lead role in supporting Charlene’s Project, a charity based in Northern Ireland and founded by her late sister, which works toward the advancement of young people in Uganda and beyond, and strives for relief of poverty, hardship and distress worldwide. In addition to serving in a fundraising role, she developed a program educating families in Uganda about jiggers, a tropical parasitic skin disease caused by burrowing fleas, and created a program focusing on sexual health for women living in slums. She also facilitated a humanitarian effort in Guatemala, which commissioned water projects in two remote villages and focused on food distribution.

A public health major with a minor in biomedical science, Barr earned a perfect 4.0 GPA in college and made the dean’s list every semester. She was honored at graduation with the School of Health Sciences Exceptional Student Award. Barr also earned National Field Hockey Coaches Association Scholar of Distinction honors all four years. In 2017, Barr received the Liberty Athletics Director Commitment to Excellence Award, in addition to the Big South Conference Christenberry Award, which is given to the student-athlete competing with the highest GPA.

Barr is a two-time Northern Pacific Field Hockey Conference champion and was named Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. She earned three first-team all-conference honors (in 2016 with the Big East, and in 2013 and 2014 with the NorPac). Barr, the field hockey team captain, currently holds the school record in number of career assists (38), and received Liberty’s Best Female Athlete of the Year Award in 2017. Barr also competed internationally, representing Ireland on the U16 and U18 national teams.

Learn more about Serena Barr

Jenny Carmichael

School: University of Oklahoma
Conference: Big 12 Conference
Sport: Outdoor track and field
Major: Chemical engineering
Hometown: Tulsa, Oklahoma

“Beauty lies in the strength of spirit all women possess. … Each woman is the purpose behind my fight. Every competition, every throw, every victory was for her: to learn strength is beautiful. For when she does, she will change the world.”

Jenny Carmichael embodied student leadership during her time at Oklahoma. She served four years as a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. She also dove headfirst into community service, sponsoring five Haitian students through Oklahoma’s Sooners for Haiti program. In addition, she sponsored a child in Peru through Compassion International, helping to provide for her health, education and safety needs, while communicating with her in letters of encouragement. Carmichael was a four-year member of the Multicultural Engineering Program, including serving three years as a program mentor. She helped to launch the Women in Engineering Program, which encourages and supports women in their pursuit of a career in engineering.

A three-time All-Big 12 Academic Team selection, Carmichael majored in chemical engineering with a minor in Spanish, earning a 3.91 GPA. In 2017, she received the 1A Faculty Athletics Representatives Academic Excellence Award and the Big 12 Dr. Gerald Lage Academic Achievement Award, which is the Big 12 Conference’s highest academic honor. She was the first female junior majoring in chemical engineering to receive the Oklahoma School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering Freda Meyer Guild Award for the Outstanding Female Student, which is awarded to a top female student in chemical engineering and materials science on the basis of academic excellence, intellectual curiosity and contribution to the department.

Carmichael competed in the discus for the Sooners track and field program, collecting multiple all-conference accolades. Carmichael received two University of Oklahoma Athletics Council Service Awards for her impact on the community through service and leadership, and was also the Sooner Oath Award winner, presented by the athletics department to one male and one female student-athlete who best demonstrate leadership, sportsmanship, strong moral character and Sooner pride.

Learn more about Jenny Carmichael

Eliana Crawford

School: Kenyon College
Conference: North Coast Athletic Conference
Sport: Swimming and diving
Major: Physics
Hometown: Las Vegas

“With newfound confidence and less fear of failure, I took on more risks as an athlete, set lofty goals in my independent research and sought out leadership roles on campus. … The lessons I learned as an athlete shaped my time in college and better equipped me to make a positive impact in the world.”

Eliana Crawford participated in several community-focused organizations throughout her time in college. She was a four-year member of and served in multiple leadership roles for BE: Kenyon, a Christian-affiliated organization on campus. Crawford served as a counselor for incoming freshmen and volunteered in tutoring programs at nearby elementary and middle schools, working with at-risk students. She also participated annually in fundraisers for Relay for Life and the Salvation Army.

Crawford, a physics major, earned a 3.96 GPA in undergraduate studies and conducted several research projects, including studying Precambrian ocean tide modeling for applications in geology as part of an independent study with the University of Michigan. She graduated summa cum laude and with distinction for her physics senior exercise. She earned three College Swimming Coaches Association of America Scholar All-America honors and was named to the College Sports Information Directors of America Division III Academic All-America Women’s At-Large Team in 2017. She received the Barry Goldwater Scholarship for research in 2016, the Kenyon College Elbe H. Johnson Prize in physics and the Kenyon Science Scholarship. Crawford qualified three times for the North Coast Athletic Conference Honor Roll and was awarded an NCAA postgraduate scholarship in 2017.

In the pool, Crawford competed in the 400-yard individual medley and the 200-yard breaststroke. She helped to lead her team to one conference championship and multiple NCAA championships appearances, where her team twice ended the season as runners-up to the national champions. She collected four CSCAA All-America honors, and received the 2017 Stephen E. Bennett Memorial Award, presented annually to the graduating senior who has consistently supported the Kenyon swimming team in devotion to training and competition swimming.

Learn more about Eliana Crawford

Lizzy Crist

School: Washington University in St. Louis
Conference: University Athletic Association
Sport: Soccer
Major: Biomedical engineering
Hometown: Wayzata, Minnesota

“I made it a priority to promote female students to reach their potential both academically and athletically. … Teaching became a tool I employed to empower each woman with the knowledge that they could achieve their goals despite language, socioeconomic or racial barriers.”

Lizzy Crist emphasized leadership on and off the soccer pitch in her four years at Washington U. in St. Louis. The soccer team captain also worked as an undergraduate research assistant and peer leader in the transport and tissue engineering lab on campus. Crist tutored engineering students and volunteered as an experiment leader for Einstein Explorers, a student organization that demonstrates science experiments for patients at Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. Crist also volunteered to coach first-grade girls in a soccer clinic for four straight years. In 2017, Crist received the W. Alfred Hayes Award in recognition of athletes who provided constructive leadership at the university.

Crist graduated summa cum laude with a degree in biomedical engineering after earning a 3.9 GPA. She earned College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-America honors and was named the 2016 National Soccer Coaches Association of America Scholar Player of the Year. Crist also collected multiple academic accolades on campus, including the 2017 Outstanding Senior Biomedical Engineering Achievement Award and the Ethan A.H. Shepley Award in recognition of leadership, scholarship and community service. She is also a three-time University Athletic Association Academic All-Conference Team honoree.

On the field, Crist led her team to one NCAA national championship and three conference championships. She was named the D3soccer.com Goalkeeper of the Year in two straight seasons, and was honored by the NSCAA as the National Player of the Year in 2016. Crist also was named the NCAA Most Outstanding Defensive Player for the 2015 and 2016 Division III championships. Crist holds school records for single-season shutouts (13) and all-time shutouts (31), and she tied the school record for total wins in a single season (19).

Learn more about Lizzy Crist

Kaina Martinez

School: Texas A&M University-Kingsville
Conference: Lone Star Conference
Sport: Indoor and outdoor track and field
Majors: Communication; sociology
Hometown: Seine Bight, Stann Creek, Belize

“Balancing school and sports, I voluntarily commit to spending extra time in community services and campus organizations. With unwavering determination and commitment, my actions penetrated and empowered positive influence into others’ lives, which I will continue.”

Kaina Martinez was an exemplary leader during her time in college. In 2008, she founded the Kaina Martinez Children Annual Track and Field Camp in her hometown in Belize, which she continues to host on an annual basis. Martinez is also an officer cadet in the Belize National Coast Guard. On campus, she volunteered with multiple local organizations, including the Weavers of Love garden and soup kitchen, the YMCA and a local recycling center.

Martinez, who earned College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-America honors in 2017, graduated summa cum laude with a perfect 4.0 GPA in speech communication and sociology. In 2017, Martinez participated in the Javelina Research Symposium as a graduate student after participating in the same program for undergraduates in 2016. She received Texas A&M-Kingsville’s First Generation Champion Award, presented to a student who is the first in his or her family to pursue a college education with success. Martinez also was named to the All-Academic Team by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association in 2015.

A sprinter for the track and field team, Martinez won two NCAA Division II national championships in relay events for outdoor track and field, including the 4x100-meter relay in 2016 and the 4x400 relay in 2015. She also collected 12 conference championship titles in several events, including the 400, 200, 100, 4x100 relay and 4x400 relay. The USTFCCCA All-American also has represented her home country of Belize in international competition since 2001, including during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

Learn more about Kaina Martinez

Christina Melian

School: Stony Brook University
Conference: America East Conference
Sports: Cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field
Major: Health science
Hometown: Staten Island, New York

“I made the decision to commit to my recovery, never looking back. It was this resilience that allowed me to excel in the classroom, achieve personal enlightenment, and be a better team captain and overall leader both on and off the track. … Tomorrow is about achieving something bigger than myself. It is more than achieving personal success, but rather having the ability to significantly impact the lives of those around me.”

When she arrived at Stony Brook, Christina Melian immediately immersed herself in her campus and local community. She held leadership positions across campus, including serving two years as a captain of the cross country and track and field teams, two years as a student ambassador for the university, and two years as a member of the Stony Brook Academy of Leaders, a group selected by the athletics director to represent the various teams in monthly meetings. She also served in the community, volunteering with the Stony Brook University pediatric cancer center and Stony Brook University Hospital. In 2016, she was nominated for the university’s Undergraduate Recognition Award for Community Service.

Melian majored in health science with a concentration in emergency and critical care, and minored in biology. She graduated with a 3.92 GPA. In 2016, she received the America East Elite 17 Award. Melian made both the America East Commissioner’s Honor Roll and the university’s dean’s list every semester. She also was selected to participate in the Clinical Oncology Open Learning Scholars Program, which is a six-week internship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer in New York City. As a participant, Melian observed surgeries and examinations. In 2017, she received the State University of New York Chancellor’s Scholar Athletic Award and represented Stony Brook at a 40-under-40 event in New York City.

On the track and cross country course, Melian earned multiple America East Conference championships, including a team championship in 2012 in cross country as well as back-to-back individual championships in the indoor track and field 3,000 meters in 2015 and 2016. She finished 13th in the 5,000 meters at the 2015 Division I indoor championships and represented Stony Brook at the 2015 Division I cross country championships. She currently holds the school record for the indoor track and field 5-kilometer event, with a time of 15:48.77.

Learn more about Christina Melian

Natalie O’Keefe

School: Southwest Baptist University
Conference: Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association
Sports: Basketball, indoor and outdoor track and field
Major: Art
Hometown: Granite City, Illinois

“Whenever I have the pleasure of sharing with others about academics, sports or faith, I try to emphasize the importance of developing holistically. My coaches and mentors have fostered an enthusiasm in me for all facets of life, and I hope to encourage the next generation of student-athletes to be passionate in all their pursuits.”

Natalie O’Keefe volunteered extensively with local organizations while attending Southwest Baptist. She regularly worked with high school and middle school track and field programs, including serving as a coach and track meet official. O’Keefe worked with faith-based organizations, including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and led small groups at her church. She also found time to dedicate to mentoring young children and tutoring her peers in college.

In the classroom, O’Keefe earned a perfect 4.0 GPA as an art major. In 2017, she was named the College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-American of the Year for Track and Field/Cross Country in Division II, after earning two Academic All-America honors. O’Keefe is a two-time recipient of the NCAA Elite 90 Award, presented to the student-athlete with the highest grade-point average who is competing at an NCAA championships finals site. She also is a four-time recipient of both the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Academic Excellence Award and the MIAA Scholar-Athlete Award.

On the track, O’Keefe is a two-time individual national champion in the high jump, making her the only Southwest Baptist athlete in history to win two national championships. She also is a three-time individual conference champion in the high jump, and two-time recipient of the MIAA Ken B. Jones Award, which is presented to the top female student-athlete and top male student-athlete competing in the conference. O’Keefe was recognized five times by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association with All-America honors and was twice named the Southwest Baptist Female Student-Athlete of the Year.

Learn more about Natalie O’Keefe

Jayme Perez

School: East Texas Baptist University
Conference: American Southwest Conference
Sport: Softball
Major: Mass Communication
Hometown: Austin, Texas

“East Texas Baptist University’s Christ-centered education has given me the opportunity to pursue a degree, play a sport I love, and empower the community around me. … I am more conscious of how my actions can affect and have an impact on my university, my athletic programs and my community.”

Jayme Perez held multiple leadership roles during her time at East Texas Baptist. She served as president of the school’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee her senior year, and was a member of the committee for three years. In 2016, Perez traveled to Costa Rica on a mission trip with her softball team, where they distributed Bibles, visited an orphanage and helped to update school classrooms. In the local community, Perez also volunteered as a physical education teaching assistant at a nearby school and participated in Strike Out Cancer fundraising efforts.

Perez, a mass communication major, graduated with a 3.63 GPA. She earned College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-America Honors in 2017 and was a recipient of the NCAA Ethnic Minority and Women’s Enhancement Graduate Scholarship, intended for students seeking admission to, or already accepted in, a sports administration program that will help the recipient obtain a career in intercollegiate athletics. She was a three-time American Southwest Conference Academic All-Conference honoree, and received the school’s President’s Christian Scholar-Athlete Award in 2016.

On the softball diamond, Perez helped carry her team to a conference championship in 2016 and four NCAA tournament appearances, including two Super Regionals and one World Series. A four-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American, Perez was among three finalists for the HeroSports NCAA Division III Woman of the Year Award and earned multiple accolades at the conference level for her outstanding performance.

Learn more about Jayme Perez