Colorado’s Benner named Pac-12 Woman of the Year

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SAN FRANCISCO - COLORADO’s Kaitlyn Benner was selected Pac-12 Woman of the Year, the Conference office announced. Benner becomes the Pac-12’s candidate for NCAA Woman of the Year, presented annually to a graduating student-athlete who has distinguished herself throughout her collegiate career in the areas of academic achievement, athletic excellence, community service and leadership. The Conference will also put forward Tami Alade, a member of the STANFORD volleyball team that won the 2018 NCAA Championship, as a second nominee for the national award.

The Pac-12 Women's Track & Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Benner (Superior, Colo.) is the first Colorado student-athlete to earn the Pac-12 Woman of the Year honor. The former cross country and track & field athlete was both an All-American and Academic All-American, carrying a 3.93 grade-point average as a chemical and biological engineering major while minoring in engineering management and leadership studies, making the Dean’s List 10 times. She won the 5,000-meter run at the 2016 Pac-12 Championships and was runner-up in the 10,000 at the 2018 and 2019 Conference meets before going on to earn NCAA All-America honors in the events (second team in 5k at 2016 NCAA Championships, first team in 10k at 2018 NCAAs, second team in 10k at 2019 NCAAs) those seasons. Benner was also a three-time NCAA All-American in cross country and earned first team All-America accolades in the 3,000-meter run at the 2016 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. She advanced to the ballot for national CoSIDA Academic All-America honors three times (2016, 2018, 2019) and was selected to the second team in 2019, as well as Pac-12 All-Academic six times (cross country and track & field).

Off the track, Benner has served as an engineering peer mentor, co-taught a freshman seminar engineering class and spent three years as a high school cross country counselor. She was also an undergraduate researcher where she worked to engineer an antibody that could be easily controlled to be safely used in aggressive cancer therapies. She hopes to one day make medical treatments that are more affordable and accessible for people with low-income.

The Pac-12 Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Alade (Sherwood Park, Alberta Canada) majored in human biology with a concentration in child health and development, while boasting a 3.60 grade point average. A second team AVCA All-American and first team All-Pac-12 pick, she helped the Cardinal to two NCAA titles in three years, leading the country with 1.87 blocks per set as a full-time starter in 2018. Benner is a four-time Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence honoree and is a recipient of the 2018-19 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. She was named second team CoSIDA Academic All-American and Pac-12 All-Academic as a senior.

As a member of Stanford’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, she developed the “A, B, Trees” Program which promotes childhood literacy in the Bay Area and reduces the lack of interest among children in underserved neighborhoods. The event has welcomed over 400 children since the program’s inception, providing opportunities to engage in reading-based activities, develop relationships with a diverse group of student-athletes and receive a free book. In addition to volunteering with several groups related to children’s health, including serving as an instructor at a nursery school and serving in leadership positions at Health Education for Life and Stanford Synapse, Alade hopes to become a physician and continue to create opportunities for minority children in the United States.

Benner is the 15th student-athlete to be named Pac-12 Woman of the Year. Previous winners were: Valarie Allman, STAN and Christine Peng-Peng Lee, UCLA (2018); Anika Apostalon, USC (2017); Rachael Acker, CAL (2016); Margo Geer, ARIZ (2015); Chiney Ogwumike, STAN (2014); Brigetta Barrett, ARIZ (2013); Hilary Bach, ASU (2012); Annie Chandler, ARIZ (2011); Justine Schluntz, ARIZ (2010); Lacey Nymeyer, ARIZ (2009); Arianna Lambie, STAN (2008); Whitney Myers, ARIZ (2007); and Kate Richardson, UCLA (2006).

Four student-athletes from the Pac-12 have won the prestigious NCAA Woman of the Year award: Schluntz (2010), Nymeyer (2009), Myers (2007), and Tanya Jones in 1994. All four were student-athletes at the University of Arizona.

Eligible female student-athletes are nominated by their schools, then each conference office reviews the nominations from its members and submits a conference nominee to the NCAA. From that pool, the NCAA Woman of the Year selection committee selects the Top 30 – 10 from each division. From the top 30, the selection committee determines the top three nominees from each division and announces those nine finalists in September. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics then chooses the NCAA Woman of the Year from those nine.

The top 30 honorees will be recognized, and the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year winner will be named, at the annual award ceremony on Oct. 20, 2019 in Indianapolis.

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