Woolnough Garners Prestigious Elite 90 Award
EUGENE, Ore. – The stellar year on and off the oval continues for Utah cross country and track & field senior Cara Woolnough as she joins elite company at the U after being named the NCAA Elite 90 recipient Thursday evening prior to the start of competition on the women's side at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
The Elite 90 Award is presented to the top individual who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the national championship level in his or her sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers.
— Utah Athletics (@utahathletics) June 10, 2022
"Incredible, but not a total surprise either," head coach Kyle Kepler, who was on hand to present Woolnough with the award alongside NCAA committee members at the reimagined Hayward Field. "Cara has been incredibly dedicated to her academics and her sport. She does everything with great thought and precision. She is inquisitive and caring with everyone. There is no doubt in my mind she'll continue do to amazing things throughout her life and represent the University of Utah and our program at the highest level. It has been an absolute honor to be her coach"
The Brisbane, Australia, becomes just the third student-athlete at the University of Utah and 12th student-athlete among the seven Division I universities in the state of Utah to garner the prestigious award. Woolnough is also the fifth student-athlete from the Pac-12 to be an Elite 90 recipient in 2021-22. This is the first time a female student-athlete from the Conference of Champions has won the award for outdoor track & field despite its illustrious history in the sport.
Woolnough, who recently graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA in biomedical engineering, continues to add to her collection. In addition to her recent CoSIDA Academic All-District Team award, Woolnough has earned Pac-12 Fall and Winter All-Academic Honor Roll and USTFCCCA Cross Country All-Academic just this academic year. In total, she's tallied 13 academic awards during her career at Utah and adds an even No. 14 to the tally with the Elite 90 Award.
"The Elite 90 Award is an incredibly special honor, and represents the very best of student-athlete achievement in NCAA Championship competition," said Director of Athletics Mark Harlan. "Congratulations to Cara Woolnough on being recognized with this award at the NCAA Championships, earning a distinction that very few in Utah Athletics history have received. Her academic and athletic performance puts her in rare company, and we are incredibly proud to see her earn this award."
After opting out of the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19, Woolnough returned stateside from her home in Australia and has since been on a tear this season. She started the year helping Utah win the Dellinger Invitational before taking second at the FSU Invite/Pre-Nats race. She then garnered First-Team All-Pac-12 honors after finishing seventh overall at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships to help the Women of Utah place second – which was the program's highest finish ever since joining the league. Woolnough then garnered All-Mountain Region honors after finishing in the top-25 before setting a new PR at the NCAA Championships.
Woolnough opened the indoor season with a victory in the 5000m race and jumped into fourth all-time at Utah before moving into third all-time at the end of the indoor season with a runner-up finish at the Pac-12 Invitational. She broke into the top-10 at Utah in the 3000m this season as well.
The outdoor season kicked off with a bang for Woolnough after she won the 1500m run with the seventh-fastest time at Utah. Two races later, Woolnough broke the school record in the 5000m at the Bryan Clay Invitational with a time of 15:40.52. The following week, Woolnough added to the outdoor record books running a leg on the 4x1600m relay team that took second with a school record time of 19:11.37. Woolnough then closed out the season with a fourth-place finish in the 5K at the conference meet before taking second in her heat to earn a spot at the NCAA Championships.
University of Utah Elite 90 Winners
2017-18: Julie Flo Mohagen (Skiing)
2018-19: Shannon McNatt (Gymnastics)
2021-22: Cara Woolnough (Women's Outdoor Track)
2021-22 Pac-12 Elite 90 Winners
UCLA: Gabriel Discipulo (Men's Water Polo)
Stanford: Haley Koo (Women's Fencing)
Stanford: Lexie Hull (Women's Basketball)
Stanford: Brooke Seay (Women's Golf)
Utah: Cara Woolnough (Women's Outdoor Track)
ELITE 90 Winners Among P5 Universities
Big Ten - 64
SEC – 58
Pac-12 – 52
ACC – 49
Big 12 - 47
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