No one is more deserving of being named the NCAA Woman of the Year than Annie Chandler, the dominating swimmer from the University of Arizona. After all, she just won her third straight Pac-10 Woman of the Year honor.
(Update Aug. 17: Chandler won a Gold medal in the 50-meter breaststroke at the World University Games in China, posting a time of 31.13 seconds.)
Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against her. And she has her teammates to thank for that.
A Wildcat swimmer has won the prestigious national award for the past two years running. If Chandler pulls off the hat trick this year by beating out the other 470 nominees, it would be an uncanny feat.
You can’t help but think… what are the odds?
The 471 nominations this year are 19 more than last year, setting a participation record for the award that was established 21 years ago.
Last year, Justine Schluntz, a five-time NCAA individual national champion and 16-time All-American, won the national award and made the University of Arizona the first school to claim four NCAA Woman of the Year honors.
The three others include Whitney Myers (2007) and Lacey Nymeyer (2009), both from the swim program, and Tanya Hughes from the track program, who won it in 1994.
Surprisingly, these four are the only student-athletes from the Pac-10 to win the national award.
The NCAA WOY award honors a graduating female athlete who has distinguished herself in the areas of athletics excellence, academic achievement, community service, and leadership.
Chandler, a journalism major, graduated cum laude last December and has been serving as the managing editor on the Tombstone Epitaph, a bi-weekly newspaper.
During her college career in Tucson, she volunteered with the United Methodist Center Hospital, Casa de los Ninos children’s home, helped with fundraising for the school’s adaptive athletics program for disabled athletes, and served as a peer athletic leader to incoming freshmen.
But, of course, her athletic achievements brought the most attention.
An 18-time All-American, she swam on six NCAA Champion relay teams (200 medley and 400 medley) and helped the Cats to its first NCAA team championship in 2008. A member of three Pac-10 Championship teams, she holds the school individual records in the 100 and 200 breaststroke and broke the NCAA record in the 100 breast.
Earlier this summer, Chandler competed at the Paris Open and won both the 100 breaststroke and the 50-meter breaststroke. Her winning time of 1:07.81 in the 100m moved her up to 12th in the world rankings in that event and her 30.89 in the 50m puts her in sixth place in the world rankings for the event.
But she’s been setting records in the 100 breaststroke that go back to high school. She set the state record in the event at Churchill High in Texas and was a three-time individual state champion.
The University of Arizona won the bidding war for her services when she left Churchill. She selected the Wildcats program after making recruiting trips to Tucson, Auburn, and Southern Methodist in Dallas.
Now she has to wait for the WOY selection process to roll out to completion, as the field of 471 nominees is first whittled to 30, as an NCAA committee selects 10 from each of the three divisions. That group will be announced later this month.
Then the process moves to three finalists from each division, announced in early September. And, from those nine, a winner will be selected and announced during the Woman of the Year dinner in Indianapolis on Oct. 16.
But Chandler won’t be sitting around waiting to hear. She will be in China later this month, one of 47 swimmers that will represent Team USA at the 2011 World University Games in Shenzhen.
Her next goal: earning a berth on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team. She narrowly missed making the team in 2008, but she has London squarely in her sights this time around.