Sarah Jane Otey, who graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in May, is one of nine student-athletes that have been selected as finalists for the 2012 NCAA Woman of the Year Award that will be announced on Sunday during a ceremony in Indianapolis.
Otey, who was the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) representative for the award, has landed among the top nine from a group of nearly 430 total nominees. The nine finalists are among 30 Woman of the Year honorees who will be honored during the event.
A three-time NEWMAC All-Conference rower, Otey is an accomplished rower and swimmer, helping to lead the Coast Guard crew team to a spot in the NCAA championship in 2008 and 2012 and qualifying for the NCAA swimming & diving championship five times in her career. She is also an outstanding student, who had a 3.97 GPA in marine and environmental science, earning six NEWMAC Academic All-Conference distinctions and receiving the George C. Alexander award at the Coast Guard Academy for "highest proficiency in physical chemistry, analytical chemistry and toxicology."
Otey took on a number of leadership and service roles during her time at the Academy. In 2009-10, she stepped away from her classmates and teammates at Coast Guard and spent a year doing humanitarian work in Peru. During her time in Peru, Otey worked at a local clinic, tutored children in English and helped build clean-burning stoves for rural families.
She has also been a mentor in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program and was the community service department head at Coast Guard in 2011. She is a two-time Capital One Academic All-District honoree and a member of Alpha Lambda Delta, the freshman honors society. She received the Elite 89 award at this year's NCAA rowing championship and is a two-time Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA) All-American.
The NCAA Woman of the Year Award honors graduating student-athletes who have distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in the areas of academic achievement, athletics excellence, community service and leadership.
She blogged three times about the event. See the blogs below
The awards dinner on Sunday was a very exciting and special event. I think the NCAA did a wonderful job in planning and executing the dinner – they recognized the entire Top 30, and then the final nine, and made everyone there feel honored. We all dressed up and walked over to the reception with our family and guests. I was so glad that both my coaches – Jen Meuse and John Westkott – were able to attend the dinner, along with out Athletic Director, Mr. Fitzpatrick. Jen even brought a photo album the crew team had made me, filled with little notes from each of them – those girls are awesome!
I was a little nervous about the actual awards part of the dinner, but everything went really well. They announced all 30 of the honorees and brought us out on stage together for pictures before the dinner. Then, after the dinner, they brought up the final nine one at a time. They showed the videos they had made for each of us, and then asked us one interview question (which they fortunately gave us in advance!). Once they had gone through all of the final nine, they announced the winner: Elizabeth Phillips. I was not at all disappointed not to win – all of the finalists were amazing women, with inspiring accomplishments, and I think that choosing the winner must have been tough.
So all in all, this entire weekend was a wonderful experience. I loved getting to know the other honorees, and to learn their stories, and the final dinner was a lot of fun. I was so glad to have this opportunity to represent the Coast Guard Academy to the larger world of NCAA athletics.
Today was the first time that all 30 of the honorees for Woman of the Year got together. We all officially met at a lunch hosted by the NCAA, and we brought shirts from our respective institutions for a get-to-know you game. I really enjoyed meeting all of the other women, and hearing about what they did in college and what they’re doing now. There were some similarities – for example, one of the girls I was sitting next to also got engaged last weekend, and many of them were in graduate school for medicine, law, or physical therapy. But they all had unique and interesting stories as well. We were able to chat and compare our experiences in collegiate athletics, majors, and in life post-college.
After lunch, we went to the Woman of the Year Legacy garden, where we met up with girls from local organizations to work on the garden together. I enjoyed talking with the girls, and they were really excited to see us. We all had a lot of fun planting chrysanthemums of all colors around the garden – though clearly none of us are design majors!
This evening we had a reception, and most of the women brought their families and guests, so we were able to mingle and introduce our guests to other honorees. I’m very excited that my fiancée, my parents, and one of my two sisters were all able to come this weekend, especially since I would never have been able to accomplish any of the things I’m being honored for without their support and encouragement. The reception was to recognize them for just that reason, and it was a very nice evening.
Tomorrow we have a lot of rehearsals and trainings, and then the actual award dinner is in the evening. Both of my coaches, John Westkott and Jen Meuse, are coming out for the dinner tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to seeing both of them!
Sarah JaneBLOG #1-- WEDNESDAY, OCT. 10TH
I love both of my sports, crew and swimming, but I didn’t get involved in either of them for the accolades. Actually, when I first started competitive swimming in high school, I was far from the best on the team, and I was content to stay there. But at the Academy, those sports became my outlet; they gave me my friends, my goals, my purpose, and kept my weekends busy. I kept doing my sports because I love the feeling of training to my limit, of pushing harder than I thought I could in practice…and of course, being rewarded at the end of the season with a good finish is nice too.
But long story short, I’ve never really thought of myself
as an amazing athlete. On the contrary, I was always that kid in
gym class who could never catch or throw to save her life
(it’s no coincidence that neither of my sports involves that
type of hand-eye coordination). And yet, here I am, somehow in the
Top 9 for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award, and I definitely have
my coaches and my school to thank for that!
As far as the dinner goes, I wasn’t sure at first that I would be able to attend, because I’m currently stationed on a cutter, the Coast Guard Cutter ASPEN, out of San Francisco, and our operations looked like they might prevent me from coming. But we managed to work it out, and I’m so excited to make it to Indianapolis.
I’m flying in on Friday, and the official activities start on Saturday, with a get-to-know you lunch followed by a community service project.
I think it will be a very neat experience to meet all of the other women in the Top 30 – they are all amazing athletes, great community leaders, and they just sound like awesome people to get to know.