INDIANAPOLIS (August 1) – Seattle University student-athletes Wilma Afunugo and Blaise Wittenauer-Lee have been chosen as the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) representatives for the 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year Award. The pair both graduated this summer following terrific Redhawk careers.
“This is a great honor for two tremendous student-athletes,” said Director of Athletics Shaney Fink. “Wilma and Blaise are the embodiment of what the NCAA Woman of the Year award represents, as well as the Seattle University mission and culture. We’re proud to have them nominated for their efforts as Redhawks.”
From the NCAA, “The NCAA Woman of the Year Award honors graduating female student-athletes for their achievement in service, leadership, athletics and academics.”
The pair was selected from a pool of 543 school nominees, including 145 WAC nominees. Conference senior woman administrators chose Afunugo and Wittenauer-Lee to advance to the next step in the award process. There are now 58 Division I nominees for the honor. Next in the process, the Woman of the Year selection committee will narrow the list to the top 10 honorees in each division. These top 30 honorees will be announced in next month before the top nine finalists (three from each division) are announced in late September. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics will vote for the 2017 Woman of the Year from this list of nine finalists.
Afunugo was born in Onitsha, Nigeria and moved to Plano, Texas. She was named the 2017 Seattle U Female Student-Athlete of the Year. She concluded her basketball career in the 2016-17, earning WAC All-Tournament Team honors in March. She put up the first two double-doubles of her career in the WAC Tournament, as SU advanced to the championship game. Afunugo finished third on the team in scoring (8.7), second in rebounding (5.6), and first in field goal percentage (48.8). The team captain also won the team’s Skill, Scholarship, and Determination Award.
“Wilma's success on the court and her academic achievements can be attributed to her drive and determination,” said Coach Suzy Barcomb. “You don't attain this type of recognition without having a great deal of courage and desire to achieve her goals. I'm proud of Wilma, the team is proud and so is the Seattle University athletic department.”
Off the court, Afunugo was a stellar student, posting a 3.60 grade point average while earning a degree in cell and molecular biology. She claimed WAC All-Academic four times, Dean’s List eight times, and President’s List once in her career.
Afunugo was a member of the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center Summer Undergraduate Research Program last year. She also volunteered in the ICU department of Harborview Medical Center and helped as a research assistant in the SU Chemistry Department. Afunugo is looking to attend med school next year.
Wittenauer-Lee separated herself as the top swimmer in Redhawk history, winning three gold medals at the 2017 WAC Championships. She set two conference records, breaking WAC records in the 100 breaststroke and 200 breaststroke. She was chosen WAC Female Swimmer of the Year, on her way to becoming the first SU swimmer to qualify for the NCAA Division I Championships. At NCAAs, she finished 27th in the 200 breaststroke. The Portland, Oregon, native tallied five career WAC titles and took home SU’s awards for Female Athlete of the Year and Competition of the Year in 2017.
“It’s an incredible achievement for Blaise to be nominated,” said Coach Craig Nisgor. “It’s great to see all she has achieved in academics, swimming, and in the community. It’s exciting to see the person she’s become in her four years here. Blaise is very deserving of this honor.”
Wittenauer-Lee graduated with a degree in social work, tallying a 3.67 GPA. She notched three WAC All-Academic honors, six President’s List accolades, and four Dean’s List nods at Seattle U. Wittenauer-Lee was also a three-time College Swimming Coaches Association of America Scholar All-American.
Wittenauer-Lee volunteered over 200 hours with Guide Dogs for the Blind and served as a social work intern at Emerald House, an adult treatment center. She’s looking to attend grad school for social work.
Stephanie Verdoia is the only other Redhawk to be nominated by the WAC for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award. The women’s soccer standout was chosen in 2015 and advanced to the top 30 finalists for the honor.