Case Western Reserve University graduate student Cassandra Laios of the indoor and outdoor track and field teams was selected one of the two University Athletic Association nominees for the prestigious NCAA Woman of the Year Award, as announced by the conference office on Wednesday afternoon.
"We are so proud of the accomplishments of Cassandra Laios," said CWRU Director of Athletic and Chair of Physical Education Amy Backus. "True grit and determination led her to become a national champion. Cassandra epitomizes the mission statement of the UAA, blending academic and athletic talent seamlessly throughout her career at CWRU. She is so deserving of this honor and we extend a hearty 'thank you' for the pride she brought to our Spartan family."
Joining Laios as a conference nominee is Emily Bryson from Brandeis University. Conference nominations are forwarded to the NCAA Woman of the Year Selection Committee, which identifies the top 10 honorees in each of the three NCAA divisions. From those 30 candidates, the selection committee then determines the three finalists in each division for a total of nine finalists.
The Committee on Women's Athletics will select the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year from the nine finalists. The 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year will be announced Sunday, Oct. 20, at an awards dinner in Indianapolis.
Laios recently completed a stellar career at Case Western Reserve. She joined elite company this past spring by the winning the 2019 NCAA Division III Women's Outdoor Track and Field Hammer Throw Championship, becoming the 15th NCAA Champion in the 48-year history of CWRU athletics, and the first since former Spartan men's tennis players Eric Klawitter and C.J. Krimbill claimed the 2014 NCAA Doubles Championship.
Competing her final collegiate event of her career, Laios finished first in the Hammer Throw with a new school-record toss of 56.34 meters at the NCAA Championships. In addition to her national title in the hammer throw, Laios earned an All-American honor in the discus on the first day of the outdoor championships as she hit a mark of 44.41 meters to place seventh in the event. During the indoor season, Laios earned her first-career All-American honor as she placed fourth in the weight throw with a toss of 17.98 meters at the 2019 NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Laios was also selected as the USTFCCCA Great Lakes Region Field Athlete of the Year, and has been named the UAA Most Outstanding Performer in Field Events four times over her career, including both the indoor and outdoor campaigns in 2019.
Laios' athletic accomplishments during her final year of competition came despite missing the NCAA Championships during the 2018 indoor and outdoor seasons, after suffering a season-ending injury just prior to the UAA Indoor Championship meet, despite being on a trajectory to qualify for both. Laios persevered and returned as a graduate student, eventually reaching the pinnacle of her event at the DIII level in the spring.
"I couldn't think of a more fitting person to be Woman of the Year," said Head Track & Field Coach Eric Schmuhl. "Cassandra has been a transformational figure in our women's program over the past five years with us. She is the embodiment of discipline, resilience, and an unshakable belief in herself to achieve whatever she is willing to make great sacrifice for. The Spartans Track and Field program is forever indebted to her for showing what can be done when we hold ourselves to a higher standard than victory."
Academically, Laios has recorded 3.87 undergraduate GPA and a 3.80 graduate GPA as an electrical engineering major. She was named to the Google Cloud Academic All-America First Team for the first time in her career earlier in the summer, and is a multiple-time UAA All-Academic honoree.
Rooted in Title IX and directed by the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics, the NCAA Woman of the Year program celebrates the accomplishments of female college athletes across all three NCAA divisions. For 29 years, this program has honored the academic achievements, athletics excellence, community service and leadership of outstanding female college athletes.