NCAA Woman of the Year Finalists Includes Three T&F Standouts
NEW ORLEANS — The NCAA revealed the nine finalists for its 2016 Woman of the Year Award on Wednesday.
Three of those former collegiate athletes competed in cross country and/or track & field in their collegiate careers.
Former Iowa State standout Christina Hillman, former West Texas A&M standout Bri Leeper and former Misericordia standout Amy Viti are three of the nine women from which the NCAA will choose its 2016 honoree. Hillman, Leeper and Viti will be honored at an awards dinner on October 16 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Hillman put together an incredible career while with the Cyclones. During the 2013-14 academic year, Hillman captured the indoor and outdoor shot put titles with heaves of 18.15m (59-6¾) and 17.73m (58-2), respectively. Overall, Hillman is a seven-time All-America honoree and won three Big 12 individual titles.
Leeper, the consummate student-athlete, was a two-time recipient of the Elite 90 Award, given to the athlete with the highest GPA who is competing at NCAAs. She was a three-time All-American and helped the Buffaloes to four conference titles.
Viti capped an incredible career with a senior year to remember. At the 2016 NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships, she finished second in the 800. Then at the outdoor meet, she finished third. Like Leeper, Viti is a two-time winner of the Elite 90 Award.
For more information about these athletes, scroll below to read their bios from the NCAA release.
Christina Hillman, Iowa State
|Excerpt from personal statement: “As a two-time national champion and summa cum laude graduate, I have succeeded in both my athletic and academic careers; but to me, those are not my most important accomplishments. Rather, I am thankful to have had the opportunity to use my status as an athlete and leader to promote positive change on Iowa State’s campus and in the Ames community.”|
Christina Hillman’s experience as a student-athlete provided a platform for her to engage with her community. She spent more than 500 hours volunteering for a Youth & Shelter Services residential treatment facility, where she worked with teenage women battling drug addictions. She was recognized by Iowa State University as a Women Impacting ISU honoree in 2014-15, and received the Gender & Sexuality Equity Change Agent Award in the same year for her work with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied students organization on campus.
A double major in child, adult and family services and psychology, Hillman excelled in the classroom. She earned two CoSIDA Academic All-America first-team honors, and in 2015-16, she was named the CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year for Division I cross country and track and field. The Big 12 Conference named her to the Academic All-Big 12 Team four times, and in 2014-15, she received the Big 12 Dr. Gerald Lage Academic Achievement Award.
Hillman propelled herself to two national championships in the shot put in the 2013-14 academic year, in both indoor and outdoor track and field, and earned Iowa State University Female Athlete of the Year honors. She is a three-time Big 12 champion and seven-time United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-American. She also has represented the United States at the Junior Olympics, where she won first place in the shot put in 2012. Hillman also holds the school record in the indoor and outdoor shot put events.
Bri Leeper, West Texas A&M
|Excerpt from personal statement: “I’ve had the opportunity to mentor young students in my community at my church, to play volleyball with students in an impoverished neighborhood in Nicaragua and teach English to children from families in Spain and Italy. All that was about seeing what I could contribute, and contributing whole-heartedly. Being a competitor means loving your team, no matter who that is; working together to achieve a greater purpose.”|
Bri Leeper actively engaged with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization throughout her time in college, serving as a huddle leader for high school girls and speaking at area middle schools and high schools. She also volunteered with an animal shelter and her campus Student-Athlete Advisory Committee’s fundraising efforts for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Leeper embraced leadership opportunities as a two-year member of the Lone Star Conference’s SAAC and was a two-time winner of the Jack B. Kelley Leadership Award.
Leeper graduated with a perfect grade-point average and a degree in broadcasting and electronic media. She was a two-time winner of the Elite 90 Award, presented to the student-athlete with the highest grade-point average who is competing at a national championship finals site. In 2016, she was named the Lone Star Conference Outdoor Track and Field Academic Runner of the Year. She also earned two CoSIDA Academic All-District honors in 2015 and 2016.
A three-time United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-American, Leeper helped lead her team to four Lone Star Conference championships. She was twice named to the all-Lone Star Conference first team, in 2014 and 2015, and in 2016, she received the West Texas A&M University President’s Award. Leeper was also a member of the 4×100-meter relay team that broke the school record and was ranked the second fastest in the country.
Amy Viti, Misericordia
|Excerpt from personal statement: “I’m forever thankful for every opportunity provided for me at Misericordia University as a student-athlete and how it has shaped me to who I am today. I know that I can move forward, with confidence, building upon these past experiences, continuing to help others, while making the world a little happier by being the best person I can possibly be.”|
Amy Viti volunteered extensively with the Misericordia University community, including serving as a camp counselor at Peace Camp, spending time with the Blue Chip Farm Animal Refuge and running in various Relay for Life events. She took leadership opportunities in stride by serving on her campus Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and launching a drive to donate personalized iPods to elders at the Mercy Center, where she worked with dementia patients to develop playlists tailored to their past in hopes of stimulating memory recall. Viti also conducted research in therapy activities to help a client with autism learn to communicate effectively.
Viti, a speech pathology major, was a five-time CoSIDA Academic All-American and twice won the NCAA Elite 90 Award. In 2016, Viti was named the Middle Atlantic Conference Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year, as well as the Misericordia ECAC Robbins Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She will complete her master’s degree in speech pathology in spring 2017.
In 2013, Viti was named the MAC Outdoor Track and Field Rookie of the Year, and lived up to those expectations in the following years. She helped lead her teams to six consecutive conference championships over the past two years, and she collected another 19 conference titles in individual and relay events. A three-time United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-American, Viti holds eight Misericordia University track and field event records. In 2016, Viti finished second at the Division III Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships in the 800-meter and third at the Division III Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the same event.