Video: Lacey Nymeyer accepts 2009 NCAA Woman of the Year award.
Former Arizona swimming standout and Olympic silver medalist Lacey Nymeyer has been chosen as the 2009 NCAA Woman of the Year.
Nymeyer accepted the award – among the NCAA’s most prestigious honors – during the 19th annual NCAA Woman of the Year event Sunday night in Indianapolis. The award honors female student-athletes who have completed their eligibility, demonstrated academic and athletics excellence, and engaged in community service and leadership opportunities.
In accepting the award, Nymeyer congratulated the other honorees and thanked her parents, coach and the university. She also thanked the NCAA for providing an opportunity to acknowledge women not only as athletes, but as people.
Nymeyer called the Woman of the Award a culmination of all she’s done and accomplished so far.
“This award is the accumulation of everything,” she said. “It’s not just athletics, academics or my community. It’s everything. It portrays me as a person. This is who I am and this is what I do. To be able to be spotlighted for the balanced lifestyle I’ve worked so hard to put together, I think that’s what makes it so grand. It spotlights me as a person. That’s why it’s so special.”
A committee of representatives from NCAA schools and conferences selected nine finalists – three form each division – from a pool of 30 honorees. Those individuals were identified from an initial pool of 132 conference and independent nominees from all three NCAA divisions and multiple sports. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics chose Nymeyer as the national winner.
Nymeyer, from Tucson, is the third Arizona student-athlete and sixth swimming student-athlete to be named NCAA Woman of the Year. She represents the Pacific-10 Conference.
Since graduating from Arizona, Nymeyer has continued to train and compete and is eyeing a second Olympic berth in 2012 in London. In the meantime, beyond substitute teaching and leading swimming clinics, Nymeyer spends much of her time with public speaking, particularly to youth groups. She said it keeps her motivated in the pool.
“When you’re in college you swim for a purpose, and for the pride and tradition of your school, but when you’re done with that and you’re only swimming for yourself, it’s hard to be motivated at times,” she said. “When I can go and talk to kids and try to inspire them to their dreams, it’s tenfold on me. It inspires me. I see their excitement and it excites me.”
After she retires from swimming, Nymeyer aspires to enter teaching full-time. Whenever that day comes, Nymeyer said she will rely on the powerful experience of having been an NCAA student-athlete.
“I can honestly say in the last five years – through hard times, through good times – I have no regrets about any of the decisions I’ve made: going to the University of Arizona, making sacrifices for my sport, dedicating myself to my studies,” she said.
“I feel like I have been offered so many opportunities by being a student-athlete that have really influenced the way I perceived the world and where I want my path to go in the future. Being a student-athlete, you see that there’s so much more to life out there and it gives you hope and excitement for the future.”
Nymeyer helped lead Arizona to the 2008 NCAA Division I women’s swimming and diving national championship and captured a silver medal in the 400-meter freestyle relay at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. A two-time Pac-10 swimmer of the year and 26-time all-American, Nymeyer also owns individual NCAA national titles in the 100-yard freestyle and 200-yard freestyle.
The physical education major was a first-team all-Pac-10 pick and a four-time University of Arizona Academic Champion. Away from the pool, she visited Haven House for Women and Casa De Los Ninos House for Children as part of team service projects. In addition to teaching swimming lessons to 5- to 9-year-olds, Nymeyer spoke at middle schools and youth sports banquets.
Q&A with Lacey Nymeyer
Would you have picked yourself as the NCAA Woman of the Year?
No. After meeting the girls and spending yesterday and today with them, I was blown away by the type of character they have and what amazing women are in this country. By getting to know them, I was really humbled by how much they’ve accomplished. It’s just a great honor, and I think this award really does represent all women very well, and especially these women.
The Woman of the Year award is designed to elevate female student-athlete nationally. Does it achieves this goal?
For sure. I think as women, especially in today’s society, there are definitely some hard stereotypes, especially with female athletics. I love how this award really does spotlight women not just as athletes or not just as a pretty face, but there is substance behind us and there is a purpose that we have here. Being a woman, you serve a greater cause in the community and you can have just a phenomenal impact on people’s lives. I think this award definitely spotlights that.
What’s the best advice you would share with other current and aspiring female student-athletes?
My coach always talks about things you should put your energy into. There are two aspects he talks about that we are in complete control of at all times: our effort and our focus. It doesn’t matter if it’s your effort and focus toward school, it doesn’t matter if it’s your effort and focus toward athletics or what you’re doing in the community, that’s what you’re in control of at all times. Especially growing up, being a teenager, in today’s world there are so many times when you don’t feel in control, you feel like you’re being acted upon. But to realize that I was always in control of those two things – they are mine and no one could take those away. That was the best advice.
Who are your role models?
Obviously my parents. They were great supports to me and examples to me of how to live a life that is not just for the quick pleasures or instant gratification or satisfaction, but really working hard toward the bigger goal and having a long-term dream. Also, my coach, Frank Bush, for what he has done not only for the program at the University of Arizona, but in my life, and how he has really taken an extra effort to help develop me as a person and not just as a swimmer.
What’s the best part about being an NCAA student-athlete?
The best part of being an NCAA student-athlete is competing for your college. Especially in the sport of swimming, where it is so individual, the opportunity you can have to swim for a greater cause, a bigger purpose, and to share that joy with a team, is very special. Also being a student-athlete puts sports in perspective. So many times, sports gets this skewed portrayal of winning and losing and what your stats are. You can get lost in it. When you compete in college and you watch college athletics, you know that those athletes, yes, they care about athletics, but they are being held accountable in the classroom, too. They are being held to higher expectations than just the normal athletes. They have other goals and purposes and it’s a whole human transformation that can happen through those four years, not just athletically.
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association