In 2019, a record 585 female college athletes were nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year award. The Woman of the Year selection committee chooses from a pool of school nominees across NCAA Divisions I, II and III who demonstrated academic and athletics excellence, as well as community service and leadership, throughout their time in college. Since Canisius College’s Mary Beth Riley won the inaugural award in 1991, women from the University of Notre Dame to the Stephens Institute of Technology have claimed the honor.
While the award has been given to women all over the country, few schools compete year in and year out like the women of University of Georgia athletics. Four times a UGA woman claimed the award — matched only by the University of Arizona — and the school has 13 finalists all-time. And in 2019, the Georgia Bulldogs could make history with its fifth winner, but history has already been made with the nomination of UGA’s Emma Mandarino.
Mandarino becomes the first honoree ever from the sport of equestrian to be a Top 30 finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year award. She’s also the only SEC athlete named a finalist in 2019.
“I was so honored to have been nominated by Georgia for this award and now to be a Top 30 finalist is surreal. My four years as a student-athlete at UGA were driven by hard work and passion. Really it all came together because I had so many wonderful women inspiring me. From mentors to teammates to coaches, these women were striking and resilient and the reasons behind my success. It’s hard to wrap my head around what a privilege it is to represent my school, my sport, and my team with this recognition, but I will forever work to honor it and inspire girls to chase their dreams”
— Emma Mandarino, via GeorgiaDogs.com
The three-time First-Team Academic All-American led the Dawgs to back-to-back SEC Championships in 2017 and 2018, plus helped UGA finish as Reserve Champions three-straight years at the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) National Championships.
Not bad for a former walk-on, huh?
Mandarino became not only one of UGA equestrian’s most prolific riders, she was one of the university’s top student-athletes regardless of college sport.
The standout from Bedminster, New Jersey had a GPA ranked top-10 among all Georgia student-athletes. She was an SEC Boyd McWhorter Scholarship nominee and was given the Bernard Ramsey Scholarship for Academic and Athletic Excellence for her academic achievements.
Georgia equestrian head coach Meghan Boenig commended Mandarino for “her leadership, passion for her team, and commitment to ‘The Georgia Way'” throughout her collegiate career.
This is the third-straight year a UGA woman was named a Top 30 finalist, joining swimmers Chantal Van Langedhem (2017) and Keturah Orji, the 2018 NCAA Woman of the Year award winner.
The Woman of the Year selection committee selects from a pool of female student athletes using a scoring system to narrow down its finalists. The overall winner will be announced at the annual award ceremony Oct. 20 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Here is the complete list of finalists:
NCAA Woman of the Year Nominees – 2019
Chelsea Abreu — Adelphi University
Tami Alade — Stanford University
Norah Barnes — Notre Dame College (Ohio)
Virginia Elena Carta — Duke University
Lauren Bondi — Smith College
Sabrina Degnan — Occidental College
Anelise Diener — University of Texas at Austin
Colleen Doolan — Tufts University
Monica Feeley — Vassar College
Katelyn Gamble — Rogers State University
Kaitlin Hatch — West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Sarah Herron — Concordia University Irvine
Anna Holmquist — Wingate University
Anna Kamp — Calvin University
Deanna Kuzmanic — University of Alabama at Birmingham
Cassandra Laios — Case Western Reserve University
Emma Mandarino — University of Georgia
Marin McCoy — Swarthmore College
Angela Mercurio — University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Christine-Evette Ngeve — Shaw University
Hannah Orbach-Mandel — Kenyon College
Kristina Ortiz — Lynn University
Annie Pankowski — University of Wisconsin-Madison
Annie Rodenfels — Centre College
Gillian Schriever — University of Pittsburgh
Jillian Schulte — Cornell College
Ginny Thrasher — West Virginia University
Hailey Tucker — Southwestern Oklahoma State University
Franzi Weidner — University of Hawaii, Manoa
Summer Yousif Bales — University of California, San Diego