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Three Horizon League Student-Athletes Nominated for NCAA Woman of the Year

Blog  Jeremiah Ingram ·

INDIANAPOLIS – Cleveland State volleyball player Grace Kauth, Detroit Mercy golfer Sarah Thompson and UIC softball player Elaine Heflin have been nominated for the 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year award, as announced Tuesday by the NCAA.

2017 NCAA Woman of the Year Nominees

Kauth, who finished her Viking career as one of the most decorated student-athletes in program history, graduated this Spring with a degree in Marketing.
The Vandalia, Ohio native finished her career with a cumulative GPA of 3.89 and earned a spot on the Cleveland State Dean's List every semester she was eligible. Kauth was a three-time Horizon League Fall Academic Team honoree, and was named the Horizon League Student-Athlete of the Fall as a junior and senior.

Kauth, who was named one of 30 candidates nationwide for the Senior CLASS Award last fall, served as the Cleveland State SAAC President during the 2016-17 academic year and as the Social Media Chair during 2015-16.

On the court, Kauth led the Vikings to back-to-back Horizon League Regular Season and Tournament Championships as a junior and senior, and was an integral part of head coach Chuck Voss becoming the all-time winningest coach in program history.

Individually, Kauth was a four-time Horizon League honoree, picking up First Team accolades as a sophomore, junior and senior and All-Freshman Team accolades as a rookie. This past season, Kauth was also named the Horizon League Player and Offensive Player of the Year, just the fourth Viking to earn POY honors.

Kauth finished her career as the only Viking to rank in the top-five in the CSU Career Record Book in kills (3rd - 1,457) and digs (4th - 1,240), while also ranking in the top-10 in five other categories.

Thompson concluded her terrific collegiate golf career this past season as she was named the Co-Horizon League Player of the Year and First Team All-Horizon League, just the second player in school history to earn the HL Player of the Year honor and the fourth to be selected All-Conference at least three times.

As a senior, she led the team and was third in the Horizon League with a career-best 77.0 average, fourth in school history. She also led the team in all nine tournaments she played in and posted eight top 20-finishes, five top-10 efforts and one victory.

She won her second career event shooting carding a career-low 220 (76-73-71) at the NKU Fall Classic.

She ended her career second in school history with a 77.77 average in 83 rounds of golf, including three of the six best single season averages with a 77.0 as a senior for fourth, 78.4 as a sophomore for fifth and 79.1 as a junior for sixth.

Thompson was the Detroit Mercy Co-President's Award winner at the annual athletic banquet, presented to the most outstanding male and female seniors who best typify the image of the complete student-athlete. She also earned the Academic Excellence Award, achieved by recording at least a 3.0 GPA for every semester that they have participated in college athletics, and was a four-year member of the Detroit Mercy Athletic Director's Honor Roll and three-time member of the Horizon League Fall and Spring Academic Honor Roll.

Heflin, who graduated in May with her Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a minor in English, excelled both on the field and off in her four years with the Flames.

The string of athletic accolades for Heflin are endless. A three-time Horizon League Pitcher of the Year, All-League First Team selection and NFCA All-Great Lakes Region honoree, Heflin was a driving force in UIC's championship turnout of three regular season conference titles, one tournament crown and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2017.

The 10-time Horizon League Pitcher of the Week broke the 20-year-old UIC strikeout record with 18 Ks against Northern Kentucky during her senior campaign, when she also set the single-season record for saves with five. With her career totals, she made her way into several other statistical categories, placing in the top 10 in appearances (112), wins (47), saves (11), complete games (50), shutouts (13), innings pitched (539.2) and strikeouts (501).

The Downers Grove, Ill., native was additionally recognized for her academic success by placing on the Horizon League Honor Roll every eligible semester and earning a spot on the All-Academic Team as a junior while she carried a 3.38 cumulative grade-point-average to collect the honor of NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete.

When not on the field or in the classroom, Heflin took time to volunteer in the community with UIC driven SPARK (Students Performing Acts of Random Kindness) as well as with Special Olympics. She additionally served as a coach for Youth 14 Girls Fastpitch Softball and provided pitching lessons.

The athletics media relations departments at Cleveland State, Detroit Mercy and UIC contributed to this story.


Established in 1991 and now in its 27th year, the NCAA Woman of the Year award honors graduating female college athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, service and leadership throughout their collegiate careers.

A record 543 female college athletes have been nominated by NCAA member schools for the 2017 award. The school nominees represent all three NCAA divisions, with 229 from Division I, 117 from Division II and 197 from Division III. The nominees competed in 21 different women’s sports, and 122 were multisport athletes during their time in college.

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.

Next, conferences will select up to two conference nominees each from the pool of school nominees. The Woman of the Year selection committee, made up of representatives from the NCAA membership, will then choose the top 30 honorees — 10 from each division.

From the top 30, the selection committee determines the top three honorees from each division and announces the nine finalists in September. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics then chooses the 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year from those nine.

The top 30 honorees will be recognized and the 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year will be announced at the annual award ceremony Oct. 22 in Indianapolis.

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