Sabrina Degnan of Occidental and Reyna Ta'amu of Redlands have been nominated to represent the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) for the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year.
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, service, and leadership. The award has been given annually since 1991. The 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year will be announced on October 20 in Indianapolis, Ind.
A two-sport athlete for Occidental competing in women's volleyball and track & field, Degnan was voted the 2019 SCIAC Field Athlete of the Year. Degnan won the hammer throw with a toss of 169-00, and the javelin throw with a mark of 129-05. She also finished second in the shot put with a heave of 38-08.75. Degnan placed second in the hammer and third in the shot put a year ago in addition to notching a win in the javelin. The Atascadero, Calif. native helped the Tigers stake six points during the dual-meet season in 2019 and finish third overall at the SCIAC Championships.
Off the field, Degnan - a Psychology major with a minor in Kinesiology - has excelled tremendously over the last four years not only academically, but in the community as well.
"I take pride in my ability to flourish with a busy schedule - whether it be practice, studying, or work, I enjoy the challenge of managing all the facets that coalesce in my life," Degnan explained. "My time as a two sport athlete, a full-time student, and an employee has created many opportunities for me to grow as an individual. For instance, as a captain for both teams (volleyball and track & field), I have led many community service projects in Los Angeles."
Such projects include, "Send Silence Packing," which promotes suicide awareness in students, "The Burrito Project," which provides food to the homeless in downtown LA, and "The LA Food Bank," which collects and packages food supplies to various shelters.
"As a student, I sustained a GPA that placed me on the Dean's Honor roll every semester since my freshman year," Degnan noted. "I was also invited to join the Phi Beta Kappa fraternity, that promotes academia, prosperity, and community.
"Overall, my time as a student-athlete taught me all the essential tools to make a positive impact on the world. I intend to take these lessons and apply them as a future School Psychologist to develop programs for special needs students."
Ta'amu - a two-sport athlete competing in women's basketball and track & field - recently received her undergraduate degree and master's degree in Business Administration from Redlands.
A Lakewood, Calif. resident, Ta'amu completed her eligibility in track & field during the 2018-19 academic year and put forth a terrific final campaign - both on and off the field. In the shot put, Ta'amu notched a sensational toss of 48-00.00 to finish first in the event by just under 10 feet, helping the Bulldogs to a second place finish at the SCIAC Championships. After winning all eight dual meets during the regular season, Redlands finished second overall in the team standings during the 2018-19 season thanks in large part to Ta'amu's efforts in the field events.
From there, Ta'amu helped Redlands to a tie for 12th place overall at the 2019 NCAA Division III Championships as she won the national title in the shot put following a massive toss of 49-07.00. She was also voted the West Region Field Athlete of the Year by the USTFCCCA.
Ta'amu's hard work paid off not only on the field of competition, but also in the classroom and beyond.
"Being a first generation minority student attending a predominantly White institution was a daunting thought for me," Ta'amu, a native Hawaiian, explained. "I was away from home, feeling disconnected from everything that made me feel comfortable and confident, in a setting that made me feel inadequate both academically and culturally.
"My first year of college was spent focused on basketball and trying to prove to myself that I was academically smart enough and deserved to be in college," she continued "Throughout my life, I could recall a handful of Pacific Islanders, that I personally knew, excel in an academic setting while pursuing a higher education and this gave me doubt that I could excel the same way as we are typically only shown to excel in sports. My teammates pushed me to try and branch out more and that resulted in me joining three organizations the following year which were SPURS, Alpha Chi Delta and Alpha Phi Omega."
Over the course of her first three years of college, Ta'amu's confidence began to grow, both on and off the court, and she soon tranformed into a leader on campus and within various organizations.
"By the time I was a senior, I was well known on campus as being a top athlete as well as a super involved student on campus," Ta'amu noted. "I no longer worried if I was capable enough as a Pacific Islander to excel because I now became an example of how and why Pacific Islanders have the ability to excel. My goal is to pave a way for the next generation and to show others in my community that we aren't limited to succeeding solely as athletes, but as scholars as well. I hope to find a way to give back to my community and help them navigate and excel and have confidence within higher academia and in leadership roles and break barriers just as I have."
Also nominated by their respective institutions for consideration were Kana Moriyama and Brittany Percin of Caltech, Amanda Roberts of California Lutheran, Lauren Friend of Chapman, and Sarah Jones and Liz Rodarte of Pomona-Pitzer.