Laura Barito ’11was announced as one of nine finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year award, the NCAA announced on Wednesday. The nine finalists, along with the other honorees who made the Top 30, will be invited to Indianapolis for the Woman of the Year festivities October 16. The award weekend will include a community service project that gives honorees the opportunity to interact with young girls in the city of Indianapolis and serve as role models for them. The NCAA will also host a reception in their honor. Barito was a two-sport star at Stevens winning NCAA National Championships in swimming and outdoor track and field this past year.
The NCAA’s Woman of the Year Award, now in its 21st year, honors female student-athletes who have distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in academic achievement, athletic excellence, community service and leadership. Every NCAA member institution is encouraged to honor its top graduating female student-athlete by submitting her name for consideration. Each conference assesses the eligibility of its members’ nominees and selects at least one student-athlete to represent the conference.
To be eligible for the award, a female student-athlete must have completed eligibility in her primary sport by the end of the 2011 spring season, graduated no later than the end of the summer 2011 term and achieved a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 2.5. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics selects the national winner from the nine finalists.
Last year’s NCAA Woman of the Year was Justine Schluntz, a 2010 Rhodes Scholar, swimmer and mechanical engineering major, from the University of Arizona.
A 21-time All-American in swimming, Barito became the first Stevens NCAA National hampion in school history when she captured the 50-yard freestyle at the 2011 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. She finished third in the nation in the 100-yard freestyle, and was a member of four top-eight and All-American relay teams.
“Laura has, without question, established herself as one of the very best student-athletes at the NCAA Division III level,” said Stevens Director of Athletics Russell Rogers.“Her work ethic and determination to succeed as a swimmer, track and field athlete, and in the classroom are unmatched. As Stevens’ first NCAA national champion, she carved a place in our record books forever. Laura has earned every accolade that has come her way and set the bar of success at Stevens to an unprecedented level.”
Barito captured the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships title in the 400-meter hurdles by more than one full second and her winning time of 59.49 seconds made her the only Division III runner to break the 60-second barrier during the 2011 season. She was named the Women’s Track Athlete of the Meet at the Empire 8 Outdoor Track and Field Championships after winning the 100- and 400-meter dashes and the 400-meter hurdles, and finishing second in the 100-meter hurdles. She later was named the Empire 8 Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
Barito, who earned Dean’s List and President's List honors at the school and conference Presidents’ List accolades throughout her academic career, graduated with a 3.822 grade-point average as a Mechanical Engineering major. She was a third-team CoSIDA Academic All-American in 2010 and was recently named a first-team CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-American in July of 2011.
She worked as a tutor and head tutor in the Stevens Academic Support Center, was a member of the Service Board of Tau Beta Pi, a highly select National Engineering Honor Society, and was active in other campus and community groups. Barito served on the school’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, volunteered as a server at a local homeless shelter and tutored underprivileged school children. At her church, she was a member of the worship band, a greeter and a member of the college ministry team.
“Through hard work and discipline, Laura has transformed herself into one of the elite athletes in the country, while excelling in the classroom and in the community,” said Stevens’ Head Swimming Coach Trevor Miele.
Barito was the hurdle/sprint team captain for track, as well as nutrition representative and service leader for the track and swimming teams. Selected twice as Stevens’ Athlete of the Year, she was also the Empire 8 Swimmer of the Year and Empire 8 Senior Scholar-Athlete award winner in 2011.
Sharon Beverly, NCAA Woman of the Year selection chair and director of athletics and physical education at Vassar College, described the award as one of the most prestigious honors presented to a female student-athlete each year.
“This award catapults the recipient into the next phase of her life and paves the way for a successful future in any chosen profession,” Beverly said. “When you consider the academic and athletic accomplishments of each of the candidates for this award and the ways they have given back to society, the Woman of the Year honorees are the top echelon of NCAA role models.”
The top 30 honorees were nominated by conference and independent members and represent multiple sports. The nine finalists will be chosen from each division to form the nine finalists for the Woman of the Year award.
The national winner will be chosen by the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics and will be announced in an Oct. 16 ceremony in Indianapolis.