UA swimmer Schluntz named NCAA woman of the year

INDIANAPOLIS — The University of Arizona’s Justine Schluntz  was named the 20th NCAA Woman of the Year Sunday evening at the annual event ceremony in Indianapolis at the Indiana Convention Center.

The award honors female student-athletes who have completed their eligibility, demonstrated academic and athletics excellence while demonstrating extraordinary community service and leadership.

Schluntz becomes the third Arizona women’s swimmer in the last four seasons to win the honor, joining former teammates Whitney Myers and Lacey Nymeyer who each won the award in 2007 and 2009, respectively. UA, which also had Tanya Hughes of Track and Field take the honor in 1994, has more Woman of the Year recipients than any other university.

Schluntz, who is currently studying as a Rhodes Scholar in England, flew back for the ceremony and was joined by her family, head coach Frank Busch and director of athletics Greg Byrne.

“When I chose Arizona, it didn’t have anything to do with swimming or academics,” Schluntz said. “It was the team, which is a family. I was lucky. Whitney and Lacey were ahead of me. I just followed their lead.

“When you swim for Arizona, you have a family for the rest of your life.”

A committee of representatives from NCAA schools and conferences selected nine finalists from a pool of 30 selected honorees. Those individuals were identified from an initial pool of 131 conference and independent honorees representing all three NCAA divisions and multiple sports.
The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics selected Schluntz as the national winner.

A native of Albuquerque, Schluntz is the seventh swimming student-athlete to be named NCAA Woman of the Year. Arizona is also the only Pac-10 school ever to have won the honor.

Schluntz is a five-time NCAA National Champion and was named to the Pac-10 First Team All-Academic Team three consecutive years. A 16-time NCAA All-American, she helped Arizona win the 2008 Division I women’s team championship.

After suffering a season-ending injury her freshman year, Schluntz began to mentor younger athletes and get involved in community service.  She volunteered for Big Brothers/Big Sisters for two years, taught swim lessons to children and volunteered with Casa de los Ninos, an organization that seeks to prevent child abuse and neglect by offering services that promote child safety and family stability, in which she spent time with children and helped distribute Christmas gifts.

Schluntz, a graduate of the UA College of Engineering, is currently researching the viability of harnessing tidal energy from the oceans to use as a renewable resource in Oxford, England. In July, she was named as ESPN The Magazine’s University division Academic All-American of the year presented by CoSIDA. The University of Arizona presented Schluntz with the Robie Medal at commencement, which is given to a student who exhibits “promise for the future.”

In addition to being named Athletics Academic Champion and Distinguished Scholar, she was named the Athletics Valedictorian at Arizona.