November 7, 2003

Medical student named NCAA Woman of the Year

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Ashley Rowatt, a first-year medical student, has been named NCAA Woman of the Year. Courtesy of the NCAA

Medical student named NCAA Woman of the Year

Ashley Jo Rowatt, a first-year Vanderbilt medical student, has been named NCAA Woman of the Year, one of the most prestigious awards in women’s athletics. The award honors academic and athletic excellence as well as community service and leadership. Rowatt, a 2003 graduate of Kenyon College and a 13-time All American and five-time NCAA swimming champion, received the award on Saturday in Indianapolis.

“It was very exciting,” said Rowatt, who has been swimming since she was 1, and, competitively, between the ages of 7 and 22. “My teammates inspired me beyond belief, and from an early age, I learned a lot about goal setting. That carried over into academics as well,” she said.

Rowatt graduate from Kenyon summa cum laude with highest honors in molecular biology with a 3.96 grade point average. The Louisville, Ky. native also won Kenyon’s Robert Bowen Brown Jr. Prize for best original research in biology and the school’s Willard Falkenstine Award, given to an outstanding athlete-scholar for leadership and integrity.

Nominated for the award by Kenyon’s Sports Information Director, Rowatt was chosen from a field of 350 nominees who had all just completed their last year of eligibility. A selection committee of representatives from member schools chose 51 winners, representing each state and Washington, D.C. then narrowed the field to 10 finalists. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics selected Rowatt from among the finalists. None of the 50 young women who attended the event knew who the 10 finalists were, so Rowatt, accompanied by her parents and three coaches and two administrators from Kenyon, was especially surprised.

Rowatt, who swam an average of 20 hours a week with her Kenyon teammates, said she could have taken a year between college and medical school to train for the Olympic trials, but decided that she would turn her full attention to medical school and quit competing.

“I made my decision that my competitive days are over. I swim now just for the fun of it, but not every day. I run and swim to keep in shape, but I miss competing,” she said, adding that she may eventually take up master’s competitive swimming for swimmers over the age of 19. “It’s a fun way to compete.”

The trophy that Rowatt received is on display at the NCAA Hall of Champions in Indianapolis, but will eventually be sent to Kenyon College for permanent display. Her name is engraved, with previous winners of the award, in the NCAA Hall of Honor in Indianapolis.

Rowatt is the first Division III athlete to win the award. She is a two-time Division III champion in the 400-yard individual medley (using all four strokes – butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle) and in the 800-yard freestyle relay. She also won a 200-yard individual medley title. Rowatt is a four-time North Coast Athletic Conference champion and helped Kenyon win the Division III championship in 2000, 2002 and 2003. In 2002, she set a NCAC record of 4 minutes, 23.72 seconds in the 400 individual medley. That record was about four-tenths of a second off the Division III NCAA record.

“I am grateful to the NCAA for creating opportunities for women to excel in collegiate athletics, and to the NCAA selection committee for honoring me with the Woman of the Year Award,” Rowatt said in her acceptance speech.

The awards ceremony will be shown on ESPN on Dec. 5 at 3:30 Central. The presentation includes videos of each finalist. Rowatt’s video included footage of Vanderbilt and Rowatt and Art Dalley, Ph.D. in Dalley’s anatomy class.