The NCAA Woman of the Year selection committee has named the top 30 honorees for the 2016 Woman of the Year award. Among the selections was Haley Townsend '16, a former Ladies swimmer.
A record 517 school nominees were submitted and then whittled down to 142 conference nominees. The committee then selected 30 women from that pool — 10 from each of the three NCAA divisions — representing 13 sports and a host of undergraduate majors. True to the award's criteria, the top 30 honorees were chosen based on excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership.
"This year's top 30 honorees have achieved remarkable things during their time in college," said Sarah Hebberd, chair of the Woman of the Year selection committee. "They are model student-athletes for generations of young women to come and we are immeasurably proud of their accomplishments."
The selection committee will next name nine finalists — three women from each division — in late September. From the nine finalists, the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics will select the 2016 Woman of the Year, who will be announced Oct. 16 at a ceremony in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Townsend is the second Kenyon female swimmer to make the top 30 in the past five years. Alisha Vereshchagin '12 made the cut in 2012. Prior to that, Tracy Menzel '09 and Rebecca Little '91 were national finalists in 2009 and 1991, respectively, while Ashley Rowatt '03 was named the 2003 NCAA Woman of the Year and became the first-ever recipient from an NCAA Division III institution.
"I'm very honored to make the top 30 and to receive an invitation to the Woman of the Year dinner in Indianapolis. I was so excited and surprised to receive the news. I actually grew up in the Indianapolis area so I'm thrilled to be able to go home for the event," Townsend said.
Townsend is a 16-time NCAA All-American and a member of the 2013 national champion 400-yard medley relay team. She owns two Kenyon relay records and is the Ladies' first-ever, three-time, first-team member of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-America Division III At-Large Team. Additionally, Townsend won the NCAA's 2014 Elite 89 trophy, annually given to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average participating at a championship site. At the conclusion of her senior season, she was awarded an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.
"We are proud to see Haley's efforts recognized nationally," Head Coach Jess Book said. "Ultimately, she distinguished herself with a steady commitment to being her best both in the water and out of it. She chose to go the extra mile whenever given the opportunity to do so — and never thought twice about the cost of that commitment. She is a tremendous woman and someone we are immensely happy to call a Kenyon Lady."
Townsend graduated summa cum laude as an international studies major with a 3.95 grade point average and recently accepted a J. William Fulbright Fellowship to work as an English teaching assistant in Turkey, although the program was suspended in July due to the continuing turmoil in that country. After learning of the suspension, Townsend altered her plans and is currently working as an assistant swim coach at Susquehanna University.