Principia College's Paige Cooley has been chosen as the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference representative for the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year award. Cooley was initially chosen by Principia College as their top graduating female athlete, and then selected by the NCAA offices as the SLIAC's representative.
Cooley was a standout not only on the tennis court but excelled with leadership skills as well as her community service involvement. When asked to provide a 250 word statement that describes how her experiences as a scholar, an athlete and a leader on her campus and in her community have influenced her life and empowered her to have a positive impact on the world, Cooley's answer demonstrated how involved she is in her own community and many areas of the country. Here is Cooley's statement:
"It feels like yesterday that I swung a tennis racquet for the first time. There was something special about those moments of clean contact that gave me a keen feeling of achievement that I relished. After dedicating the past 17 years of my life to playing tennis competitively, I realize that the sport has taught me invaluable life lessons that extend far beyond the alleys of a court.
The first of these lessons is the importance of a strong, independent work ethic. Since I was young, my academic passion has been to improve the quality of life on earth through the exploration of outer space. The determination I learned through tennis led to me having opportunities to conduct research on mission concept development at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and work as a flight systems engineering intern on the Mars 2020 mission. Although these experiences were incredibly valuable, I realized that it is more important to me to find ways to inspire others to set ambitious goals and achieve them.
My commitment to tennis also taught me the far-reaching effects that leaders have. Throughout my college experience I found ways to inspire others through leadership roles such as starting a Society of Women Engineers chapter, serving as tennis team captain twice, and serving as the Student Body President. Although each position brought its own set of challenges, I felt prepared to overcome every obstacle because of the strong foundation of work ethic and leadership that my tennis career afforded me."
A record 585 female college athletes have been nominated by NCAA member schools for the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year award.
Established in 1991, the NCAA Woman of the Year award recognizes graduating female college athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, service, and leadership throughout their collegiate careers.
The NCAA encourages member schools to honor their top graduating female student-athletes each year by submitting their names for consideration for the Woman of the Year award.
The nominees competed in 23 different sports across all three NCAA divisions, including 262 from Division I, 131 from Division II and 192 from Division III. Multisport student-athletes account for 144 of the nominees.
Next, conferences will select up to two nominees each from the pool of school nominees. Then, the Woman of the Year selection committee, made up of representatives from the NCAA membership, will choose the Top 30 honorees — 10 from each division.
The selection committee will determine the top three honorees from each division from the Top 30 and announce the nine finalists in September. From those nine finalists, the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics then will choose the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year.
The Top 30 honorees will be celebrated and the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year will be named at the annual award ceremony Oct. 20 in Indianapolis.