Two from Pac-12 schools named NCAA Woman of the Year finalists
SAN FRANCISCO - Two of the nine 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year finalists revealed Thursday hail from Pac-12 Conference institutions with OREGON STATE women's basketball's Mikayla Pivec and ARIZONA STATE triathlon's Charlotte Ahrens. Pivec and Ahrens account for two of the three finalists from the NCAA Division I ranks, with the other six coming from the Division II and III ranks.
The pair's selection as two of nine NCAA Woman of the Year finalists comes after they were named Top 30 honorees in September, narrowed down from 161 conference-level nominees in August and an initial 605 school nominees in July.
Pivec - who was selected as the Pac-12 Woman of the Year for 2020 - was one of the Pac-12's two nominees from Conference-sponsored sports, along with ASU swimming & diving's Silja Kansakoski. Ahrens was the only student-athlete out of the 161 conference-level nominees to earn nomination from an independent affiliation as the Pac-12 does not sponsor triathlon.
One of the highest awards bestowed by the NCAA, the Woman of the Year honor is unique in its recognition of female student-athletes who are not only successful on the field and in the classroom, but also contribute to their communities and campuses. The nine finalists will be celebrated and the NCAA Woman of the Year recipient will be selected during a virtual awards show in November.
Pivec is the co-founder of Beavs CARE (Corvallis Athletes Reaching Everyone), which aims to bring Oregon State student-athletes together for service initiatives. The guard traveled to the Dominican Republic as part of a service trip with Beavers Without Borders, and has volunteered numerous hours with IMPACT for Life, Community Outreach Incorporated, Corvallis Women's Shelter and the DAM Worth It Campaign which focuses on mental health efforts.
Pivec was a team captain, and completed her undergraduate degree in three years, majoring in BioHealth Sciences. From there she moved on to work toward a degree in Biochemistry and Biophysics. Pivec earned Academic All-America honors the last two years, and was tabbed as Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year in women’s basketball after her senior year.
For her work on the court, Pivec was selected as an All-America Honorable Mention by both the AP and the USBWA. She was named to the All-Pac-12 team, the Wooden Award Ballot, the Cheryl Miller Award Top-10 and the Naismith Trophy Midseason Team. She was also a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award. Hailing from Lynnwood, Wash., Pivec averaged 14.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game during her senior season, while setting Oregon State's career rebounding record. Pivec finished second in the Pac-12 in rebounding and fifth in the conference in field goal percentage. In total, Pivec had 14 double-doubles in 2019-20, and is in the top-10 in Oregon State history for career points, rebounds and assists. She was the 25th overall selection by the Atlanta Dream in the 2020 WNBA Draft.
Ahrens is one of the foundational pieces of Sun Devil Triathlon, helping the Maroon & Gold win four consecutive team national championships. The CTCA and USA Triathlon All-American was a mainstay in the lineup during her first three seasons in Tempe. She finished second behind teammate Hannah Henry at both the 2017 & 2018 USAT Collegiate National Championships, as the Sun Devils dominated both races. Thanks to her outstanding performance, she was twice named to the CTCA West All-Region Team. The Nuremberg, Germany native also excelled in the classroom, twice being selected as a CTCA Scholar Academic All-American.
In Fall 2019, Ahrens was the recipient of the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, becoming the 34th Sun Devil to earn the distinction.
Kansakoski was selected in April as the female winner of the Kajikawa Award, presented to one female graduating senior Sun Devil student-athlete based on their demonstrated academic excellence, athletic accomplishment, leadership and service in the community.
Kansakoski made an impact both in the pool and in the classroom while at Arizona State. The Oulu, Finland native excelled while completely rewriting the record books at Arizona State, now claiming nine of the top-10 fastest times in Sun Devil history in the 100 breast and eight of the top-10 times in the 200 breast with the completion of her eligibility. The six-time career All-America and two-time Pac-12 Champion will go down as one of the most decorated female swimmers in school history. The well-rounded Kansakoski was also named a CSCAA Academic All-American and earned multiple nods to the Pac-12 All-Academic team as well.
Pivec is the 16th student-athlete to be named Pac-12 Woman of the Year. Previous winners were: Kaitlyn Benner, COLO (2019); 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).
The Pac-12 Woman of the Year Award honors graduating student-athletes who have distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in the areas of academic achievement, athletics excellence, community service and leadership. Winners of the Conference Woman of the Year award go on to be nominated for NCAA Woman of the Year.
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. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics then chooses the NCAA Woman of the Year from those nine.