After competing against a record-setting field of 585 nominees, Hannah Orbach-Mandel ’19 became one of nine finalists for the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year award, which recognizes student-athletes with exceptional achievements in academics, athletics, community service and leadership.
Orbach-Mandel, a four-year member of Kenyon’s Ladies swimming and diving program, graduated summa cum laude in May with high honors in economics, as well as three NCAA national swimming titles and 25 All-America awards.
“When I was informed that I had made it to the top nine, it brought me to tears because I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. I am so proud of everything I was able to achieve while at Kenyon and being recognized for this award just adds to those feelings of pride,” Orbach-Mandel said.
“However, this honor is the result of the support and love of many people: my family, friends, coaches, teammates and professors. I am so grateful for the people in my life now and while I was at Kenyon, because through all the ups and downs, their support has been unwavering.”
The massive pool of Woman of the Year nominees was first whittled down to 151 by an NCAA selection committee and conference offices. The committee then picked 30 semifinalists, 10 from each of the three NCAA divisions. On Wednesday, Oct. 2, the field was narrowed to nine finalists, three from each division. Those finalists were honored at an awards dinner on Oct. 20 in Indianapolis.
“At this level of recognition, the women being honored are exceptional in all facets of their lives,” said Head Swimming Coach Jess Book ’01. “Hannah is as amazing as anyone I’ve worked with: she is passionate, compassionate, driven and dedicated. Where she distinguishes herself is in her joy for sport. Hannah treated swimming like a close friend. Someone to laugh with, someone to cry with, someone to celebrate, and someone worth her love. I am very proud to see her recognized by the NCAA.”
While at Kenyon, Orbach-Mandel was named Kenyon’s North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Scholar-Athlete Award winner and was the recipient of an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. She was a two-time College Sports Information Directors of America Google Cloud Academic All-American, a four-time College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America Scholar All-American and a three-year member of the NCAC Academic Honor Roll. She was a mainstay on Kenyon’s Merit List and inducted into both Phi Beta Kappa, a national honors society, and Pi Mu Epsilon, a mathematics honors society.
In the pool, she won three NCAA event titles: the 400-yard freestyle relay (2019), the 800-yard freestyle relay (2019) and the 400-yard medley relay (2018). She also was an eight-time conference event champion. With her individual success, Orbach-Mandel helped guide Kenyon to three team conference championships and three second-place team finishes at NCAA Division III championship meets. She set four Kenyon records and holds three conference records.
In addition to serving as team captain during the 2019 season, Orbach-Mandel was involved in Kenyon’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council and participated in the NCAC’s Branch Rickey Mentorship Program. She volunteered at the Salvation Army and at Wiggin Street Elementary, where she assisted third-graders with math, reading and English. She also found time to serve as a First-Year Orientation team leader and committed time to Girls and Women in Sports Day, Walk to End Alzheimer’s and Relay for Life.
Orbach-Mandel, a native of Tucson, Arizona, continues what has been a remarkable run for Kenyon swimmers in the NCAA Woman of the Year process. In 2003, Ashley Rowatt Karpinos ’03 became the first woman from an NCAA Division III institution to earn the award. Since then, seven other Kenyon swimmers have been top-30 semifinalists, with six of them moving on to become top-nine finalists.