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It's About Time

A look back on 25 moments for women in sports since NCAA Woman of the Year got its start

The gallery below shows a quarter-century’s worth of winners – and 25 exciting moments that happened along the way:

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March 1991: The Women’s Final Four is televised on CBS for the first time. University of Tennessee Photo

March 1992: The Gender Equity Task Force is assembled in response to the first NCAA gender-equity study, which showed disparities in the treatment of male and female student-athletes. NCAA News

September 1993: The NCAA now sponsors 15 women’s sports, in which 97,978 women compete on 6,173 teams across all three divisions. Kenyon College Photo

January 1994: The NCAA Emerging Sports Program, designed to increase athletics opportunities for women, is formed. University of Washington Photo

July 1996: Women’s soccer and women’s softball, sponsored as NCAA Division I championships since 1982, become medal sports in the Olympics. Elise Amendola / AP Images

September 1996: Buffalo cross country runner Bridget Niland becomes the first college athlete, male or female, to chair the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. University of Buffalo Photo

June 1997: The inaugural WNBA season begins. Kevork Djansezian / AP Images

July 1999: The United States wins the Women’s World Cup in front of 90,000 fans at the Rose Bowl. Forty million Americans watched on TV. Mark J. Terrill / AP Images

2001: NCAA championships are first contested in women’s ice hockey, women’s water polo and Division III women’s lacrosse. Kohjiro Kinno / NCAA Photos

July 2001: The NCAA and ESPN agree to a $160 million deal for expanded coverage of the Division I women’s basketball tournament, beginning in 2003. Jamie Schwaberow / NCAA Photos

May 2002: The Florida Southern College women’s golf team wins the 2002 NCAA Division II Women’s Golf Championships by 74 strokes: the largest margin of victory in Division II golf championship history – men or women. Mike Farrell / NCAA Photos

May 2003: Former University of Arizona golfer Annika Sorenstam becomes the first woman since Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945 to play in a PGA Tour event. University of Arizona Photo

September 2003: Tonya Butler of the University of West Alabama becomes the first woman in NCAA football history to make a field goal. University of West Alabama Photo

September 2003: The NCAA now sponsors 19 women’s sports, in which 158,459 women compete on 8,831 teams across all three divisions. Stephen Nowland / NCAA Photos

November 2004: Wartburg College’s Missy Buttry becomes the first woman in any NCAA division to win three individual cross country titles. NCAA Photos

November 2008: Emileigh Mercer finishes her career at Bowdoin College with a 39-1 record, the best winning percentage for any goalie in any division in NCAA field hockey history. Bowdoin College Photo

December 2008: Pennsylvania State University women’s volleyball team wins an NCAA-record 111 consecutive sets en route to a 38-0 mark. Dave Weaver / AP Images

February 2009: Pat Summitt wins her 1,000th game, becoming the first Division I basketball coach (men’s or women’s) to reach the mark. Wade Payne / AP Images

February 2009: For 112 straight basketball games, the University of Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris produced double-figure points and rebounds. No men’s or women’s player has come close to her dominance in those categories. Sue Ogrocki / AP Images

March 2010: Texas Christian University becomes the first all-female team to claim the National Collegiate Men’s and Women’s Rifle Championships. Michael Clements / NCAA Photos

December 2010: With its 89th consecutive win, the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team passes the 1971-74 UCLA men’s program, which won 88 straight. The Huskies went on to win 90 consecutive games total between 2008 and 2010. University of Connecticut Photo

September 2013: The NCAA now sponsors 20 women’s sports, in which 200,953 women compete on 10,057 teams across all three divisions. Justin Taffy / NCAA Photos

May 2014: LIU Post’s Jackie Sileo finishes her collegiate career as the NCAA lacrosse all-time leader with 564 points and 369 assists. Bill Luster / NCAA Photos

April 2015: The NCAA Gender Equity Task Force reconvenes, pledging to work toward increasing opportunities for female student-athletes, coaches and athletics administrators. Rachel Stark / NCAA

July 2015: The United States wins its third Women’s World Cup. All 23 members of the squad perfected their craft at an NCAA member school. Michael Chow / USA TODAY

This fall, the 25th NCAA Woman of the Year will be named. The program launched in 1991, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the advent of NCAA women’s championships. Woman of the Year honors the best in young women competing throughout all divisions, and in the years since its inception, women have marked more milestones in athletics.

“One of my goals was to increase the visibility of women’s athletics and the accomplishments of outstanding women,” said Judith Sweet, the first female president of the NCAA, who also helped create the program, which celebrates academic achievements, athletics excellence, community service and leadership. “The group recognized the importance of role models for young girls and that there were so many great representatives participating in NCAA women’s sports.”

There have been many fond memories since, such as in 1994, when winner Tanya (Jones) Hughest of the University of Arizona began singing Hero as she stepped to the podium, leaving emcee Robin Roberts at a loss for words.