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Nebraska’s Mercurio, Wisconsin’s Pankowski Among Top 30 For NCAA Woman of the Year Award

Husker track & field student and Badger women’s ice hockey standout among 10 Division I students still in contention for one of NCAA’s top honors


ROSEMONT, Ill. — University of Nebraska track & field student Angela Mercurio and University of Wisconsin ice hockey standout Annie Pankowski have been named Top 30 honorees for the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year award, the Association announced Tuesday.

The Top 30 honorees, which include 10 from each of the three NCAA divisions, were selected from a pool of 151 conference nominees for consideration to receive this year’s award. Mercurio was one of the two Big Ten nominees this year (along with Rutgers rower Sarah Johanek), while Pankowski was nominated by the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), as the Big Ten does not sponsor the sport of women’s ice hockey.

The NCAA Woman of the Year selection committee, comprised of representatives from NCAA membership, will choose nine finalists — three from each division — from among Top 30 honorees, with the finalists revealed early next month. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics will ultimately select the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year recipient from those nine finalists, with the Top 30 honorees recognized and the award winner announced at a ceremony Oct. 20 in Indianapolis.


The NCAA Woman of the Year award has been presented annually since 1991 and recognizes the nation’s top senior female student-athlete who has excelled in the award’s four pillars of academics, athletics, service and leadership. Nebraska volleyball standout Billie Winsett-Fletcher is the only student from a current Big Ten school to have been chosen as NCAA Woman of the Year, receiving the award in 1996.

“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.”

A native of Kitchener, Ontario, Mercurio was a two-time Google Cloud Academic All-America Second Team selection, as well as a three-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree. Earlier this year, she also was a recipient of both the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and the Big Ten Postgraduate Scholarship. She graduated from Nebraska in May with a 3.99 GPA as a double major in biochemistry and women’s & gender studies.

Mercurio was a four-year letterwinner on the Nebraska track & field team and was a three-time second-team All-American in the triple jump. She also earned the conference title in the event at the 2019 Big Ten Indoor Championships before going on to place ninth in the triple jump at the 2019 NCAA Indoor Championships.

Pankowski, a 2019 Big Ten Medal of Honor honoree and Big Ten Postgraduate Scholarship recipient, graduated from Wisconsin in May with her bachelor’s degree in zoology. The Laguna Hills, Calif., native was a two-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and four-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, as well as the 2016 NCAA Elite 90 selection and a finalist for the 2019 Hockey Humanitarian Award for her work with Occupaws, a non-profit organization that trains and pairs service dogs with the visually impaired. She is continuing her postgraduate studies at Wisconsin in the UW School of Veterinary Medicine.

A four-year letterwinner on the Wisconsin women’s ice hockey team, Pankowski was a three-time All-American, garnering first-team accolades in 2019 after leading the Badgers to their fifth NCAA national championship while amassing a team-high 50 points (28 goals, 22 assists).  A captain for the 2018-19 Badgers, she also was named a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award (given to the nation’s top player) for the third time. Subsequently, Pankowski earned her third international gold medal as a member the U.S. Women’s National Team at the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships in Finland.