Cassandra Laios, a recently-graduated member of the Case Western Reserve University indoor and outdoor track and field teams, was selected among the top 30 honorees for the prestigious 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year award.
"I am honored to represent CWRU as part of the top 30 honorees for this prestigious award," said Laios. "Throughout my time I participating in athletics I have received so much support from coaches, teammates, and my family. I would never have been able to accomplish what I did in and out of the throwing ring without them."
The Top 30 honorees were selected from an initial pool of 585 school nominees, a program record. From there, the pool was narrowed by conference offices and a selection committee to move forward 151 nominees for consideration. The Top 30 honorees include 10 from each of the three NCAA divisions, and each has demonstrated excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership. The honorees competed in 13 sports — including, for the first time, equestrian and rifle — and studied a broad range of academic majors, including neuroscience, anthropology, economics, chemical engineering, political science and communication.
"We are so proud of the accomplishments of Cassandra Laios," said CWRU Director of Athletics and Chair of Physical Education Amy Backus. "True grit and determination led her to become a national champion. To be named as one of the top ten candidates in Division III illustrates what we know about Cassandra - that she blended extraordinary talent in the classroom and on the field seamlessly throughout her career at CWRU. She is so deserving of this honor and we extend a hearty 'thank you' for the pride she continues to bring to our Spartan family."
Laios recently completed a stellar career at Case Western Reserve. She joined elite company this past spring, winning the 2019 NCAA Division III Women's Outdoor Track and Field Hammer Throw Championship to become 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 national competitions. Laios persevered and returned as a graduate student, eventually reaching the pinnacle of her event at the DIII level in the spring.
"Just when you think she's done being awesome, you get an email from the NCAA saying she's done it again" said Head Track & Field Coach Eric Schmuhl. "Cassandra just continues to show why she is such a special student-athlete and what a privilege we've had watching her over her years here."
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.
In early October, the selection committee will announce the nine finalists, made up of three women from each NCAA division. From those finalists, the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics will select the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year. The Top 30 will be celebrated and the Woman of the Year will be named Oct. 20 at a ceremony in Indianapolis.
"This year's 30 honorees are remarkable women, representing well the thousands of women competing each year in college sports," said Karen Baebler, chair of the Woman of the Year selection committee and assistant athletics director for sport operations at the University of Washington. "They have excelled in sports and academics while serving their peers and communities, and we congratulate them for their many achievements."
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.