Schluntz is third ‘Woman of Year’ from UA swim program

It makes you wonder… what are they putting in the pool water down at the University of Arizona?  Not only are they turning out great swimmers, but they’re producing great all-around individuals.

Justine Schluntz, a five-time NCAA champion at Arizona, was named this week as the 2010 NCAA Woman of the Year.  Last year, it was Lacey Nymeyer, another Arizona swimmer.  In 2007, it was Whitney Myers…yep, another athlete who made her mark on the Wildcat swim team.

Seven swimmers have been selected for the prestigious NCAA honor over the years.  Three have been from the University of Arizona.

The award honors female student-athletes who have accomplished more than their sport requires.  The recipients, who must have completed their eligibility, have demonstrated academic excellence, extraordinary community service, and leadership qualities.

Schluntz was a 16-time NCAA All-American and a national champion in the 200-meter and 400-meter medley relay events.  But she was also the Athletics Valedictorian at Arizona, Athletics Academic Champion, and Distinguished Scholar.

The mechanical engineer major graduated summa cum laude and was a 2010 Rhodes Scholar who is  continuing her study at Oxford University.

And then she balanced sports and studies with volunteer work that included involvement with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, mentoring programs for young athletes, and organizations devoted to preventing child abuse and neglect.

Nymeyer’s award the year before was perhaps even more rewarding because she was a local girl.  The physical education major is a Tucson native who graduated from Mountain View High School in Marana.

The Wildcats won the 2008 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championship on her watch, and she collected individual titles in the 200 Freestyle and the 100 Freestyle.  She was also a member of the four relay teams that placed first at the NCAA Championships in 2008.

Myers was a record-setting swimmer and diver at UofA.  She collected 14 records during her stay in Tucson and was the 2007 NCAA Champion in the 200 individual medley.  On a bigger stage, she won a gold medal in the 200 IM at the 2006 Pan-Pacific championships.

And, when you include the selection of Tanya Hughes, a track & field standout, as the 1994 Woman of the Year, it means that the Wildcats have more WOY honors than any other university.

This year’s field started with 131 conference and independent honorees representing all three NCAA divisions and multiple sports, and then was narrowed to 30, and eventually to nine finalists.

The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics settled on a national winner, and Schluntz’ selection was announced at Sunday night’s annual awards dinner.