Oct. 20, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - All-American, Scholastic All-American and member of Alabama Gymnastics' back-to-back NCAA Championship squads Ashley Priess was honored Sunday night at the NCAA Woman of the Year as one of 10 Division I finalist for the prestigious honor.
Priess and her parents Mel and Linda were joined by Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson, Deputy Athletics Director Shane Lyons, Associate Athletics Director Marie Robbins, Assistant Director of Athletics Student Services Fern Hampton and UA professor Ellen Pate.
"These women are so impressive, all true champions in their own right and there is no doubt that Ashley earned her place among them," Patterson said after the banquet. "As a scholar, an athlete and a leader, she was simply amazing. She was a difference maker for our program in so many ways and I couldn't be prouder of everything that she accomplished."
Priess finished off her Alabama career last spring as a 10-time All-American and four-year Scholastic All-American. A member of the Tide's 2011 and 2012 NCAA Championship teams, Priess is the first UA gymnast to earn an undergraduate degree while still competing after graduating with a bachelor's in December 2011. She finished her graduate degree this summer just after leading Alabama to a third-place finish at the NCAA Championships. The winner of an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, Priess plans to pursue her doctorate in leadership studies.
Co-captain of the 2010, 2012 and 2013 squads, she earned the Tide's Lewis Each Courage Award in 2010 and 2012. As a senior, she earned the athletics department's Paul W. Bryant Student-Athlete award, which goes to the Tide's top scholar-athlete.
Alabama gymnastics has a proud tradition when it comes to the NCAA Woman of the Year. The award was originally selected on a state basis with the field narrowed to 10 finalists prior to the overall Woman of the Year being announced. Under that system, the Tide had nine student-athletes earn state honors including four that went on to be finalists including Meredith Willard (1997), Merritt Booth (1998), Kristin Sterner (2003) and Michelle Reeser (2005). The Tide's state winners were Katherine Kelleher (1992), Dana Dobransky (1993), Lexa Evans (2000), Andreé Pickens (2002) and Stephanie Kite (2004).
"I'm extremely proud of the tradition that the University of Alabama has when it comes to this award and the place that our gymnastics team has within that legacy," Patterson said.
In recent years, the award has been selected by schools nominating student-athletes to their conference and conferences forwarding nominees to the national committee. Alabama student-athletes have been the Southeastern Conference's nominee three times in the last four years with Priess joining golfer Brooke Pancake (2012) and softball player Brittany Rogers (2010).