SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. – Mount Holyoke College swimming & diving's Cathleen Pruden has been selected as one of two nominees, including MIT's Margaret Guo, by the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) for the 2016 NCAA Woman of the Year Award. Now in its 26th year, the NCAA Woman of the Year Award recognizes graduating female student-athletes for excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership. All conference nominees are forwarded to the NCAA Woman of the Year selection committee, which chooses the top 30 honorees – 10 from each division.
The NCAA will announce the Top 30 honorees on NCAA.org in early September. From the top 30, the selection committee determines the top three nominees from each division and announces the top nine finalists in September. The NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics then chooses from among those nine to determine the 2016 NCAA Woman of the Year. The 2016 NCAA Woman of the Year winner will be announced, and the Top 30 honorees celebrated, at the annual award ceremony Oct. 16 in Indianapolis.
Pruden, who graduated magna cum laude in May as a dual major in Psychology and Education, carried a cumulative GPA of 3.97 for the 2015-16 academic year. A native of Raleigh, N.C., she was one of 15 recognized to the CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team. Pruden was the only selection among this year's honorees to have earned Third Team as a sophomore, Second Team as a junior and First Team for her senior season.
The First Team honor caps an incredible 2015-16 season and collegiate career for Pruden, who earned National All-America and Honorable Mention All-America recognition at Nationals in March. Additionally, she placed no lower than 18th in her three events, including a third-place finish in her signature event - the 400-individual medley.
The former Ravenscroft School standout had an incredible start to her final NCAA Championship on March 16. In the 200-yard individual medley, she finished 14th overall in the event to earn Honorable Mention All-America with a time of 2:05.41.
Pruden then moved on to the 400-IM the following day, where she battled to finish third in her best event with a time of 4:22.21, becoming the only swimmer in Mount Holyoke history to earn All-America honors in three consecutive years. The Lyons' captain then concluded her career in the 1650-free, finishing 18th overall with a time of 17:18.03 on Saturday.
She came into Nationals after posting an outstanding effort at the NEWMAC Championships where she was named the conference's Swimmer of the Year for the second straight season. During that meet, she posted three school records, achieved two NCAA B Cuts and defended her title in the 400-IM event for the fourth straight year with a meet and conference-record time of 4:21.77.
Additionally, she finished no less than seventh in any of the seven events she competed. Among her top performances, included the 400-IM, a win in the 200-IM for the second straight season (school record time of 2:04.40) and placing third in the 1650-free with a season's best time of 17:15.78.
A dominant force for the Lyons this season, Pruden recorded 41 first-place finishes, including 33 individual wins. In addition to finishing third or better in 48 of 54 total races, she placed no less than seventh in any event - with the exception of the 1650-free at NCAA's. She recorded at least two wins in all 11 dual meets, including 10 with three or more victories.
Pruden had an outstanding campaign in 2014-15, highlighting the year with her second straight National All-America honor after finishing eighth at the NCAA Championships in the 400-individual medley. She is the only swimmer in Lyons' history to earn All-America (top-eight) honors twice.
The NEWMAC Swimmer of the Year in 2014-15, Pruden powered her way to 37 victories in the pool last season. In addition to achieving 10 school records, she also defended her NEWMAC title in the 400-IM, posting a conference meet and open record time. She was also the conference champion in the 200-IM and the 1650-freestyle. Among her other top performances was at the 2015 Seven Sisters Championships, where she claimed victory in five events, setting two meet records and achieving two NCAA B Cuts as well.
Pruden has established herself as one of the all-time best at Mount Holyoke through three seasons. In 2013-14, she became the first swimmer in program history to finish in the top-eight at Nationals, garnering All-America in the 400-IM. She was a four-event winner at the Seven Sisters Championship, as well as the NEWMAC Champion in the 400-IM.
During her rookie campaign, she was named the NEWMAC Rookie of the Year – the first-time ever by an MHC swimmer – after winning two events in record fashion. Pruden, who was a three-time Swimmer of the Week honoree in the conference, also posted two victories at Seven Sisters.
In her career, Pruden is a three-time NCAA National All-American in the 400-IM. A three-time CSCAA National All-America First Team honoree, she is also an eight-time NEWMAC champion as well as a two-time conference Swimmer of the Year recipient. Pruden is an eight-time NEWMAC All-Conference First Team selection, as well as a 17-time Seven Sisters Champion.
Named the NEWMAC Swimmer of the Week 15 times during her career, including six during the 2015-16 campaign, she is a record holder in five Seven Sisters events. Pruden also holds 13 of Mount Holyoke's 23 school records, including nine individual.
Pruden, a three-time NEWMAC Academic All-Conference Team selection, further etched her name into the record books with her third straight Academic All-America honor, becoming just the second individual in Mount Holyoke history to reach the feat three times. She joins former volleyball standout, Michelle Johannes '92, who earned Third Team (1990), First Team (1991) and Second Team (1992) during her career.
In addition to serving on the Mount Holyoke Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, including as its Chair, she is a head coordinator and volunteer swim instructor for Project SPLASH! Pruden also received the 2014 Psychology and Education Department Award for Academic Excellence, was named a Sarah Williston Scholar, and also earned the 2016 Mount Holyoke Student Leadership and Service Award.
Additionally, she was named the 2016 Laurie Priest Alumnae Association Scholar Athlete winner, given to an exceptional athlete who displays great character and leadership, exemplary scholarship and is an outstanding representative of the school and athletic program.
Pruden is one of 142 female student-athletes named 2016 Woman of the Year honorees by conferences and independent schools. NCAA member schools nominated 517 women for the national award, the most in the program's 26-year history. For more information, visit NCAA.org.