Editor’s note: This story employs Associated Press-style nonbinary pronouns.
Soccer alum Hailey Rittershofer is one of the Big West Conference’s eight nominees for the Woman of the Year award, as announced by the NCAA this week.
Now in its 30th year, this award honors graduating student-athletes who played women’s sports, exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, service and leadership throughout their collegiate careers.
“I am grateful that UC Davis Athletics nominated me for this award. Although I am nonbinary, and do not identify as a woman, I have played for and grown within women’s sports — particularly soccer — my entire life. I am appreciative of the acceptance and steps being made by UC Davis Athletics for (trans-gender) and nonbinary athlete inclusion in sports, and hope to see the NCAA adopt more all-gender sports so athletes of all identities can be their full selves on and off the pitch,” Rittershofer said.
“It is always a challenge to nominate just one outstanding student-athlete from a school that is fortunate to have so many extraordinary people exemplifying the best of both academics and athletics. This year it was a clear choice when it came time to select a Woman of the Year candidate,” said UCD Senior Associate Athletics Director Michael Lorenzen.
“Hailey has been an inspirational leader on their team and within the Athletic Department on every front.”
Throughout their career, Rittershofer started nearly every game, was named team captain and earned Big West All-Academic Team accolades three times. In addition to becoming UC Davis Athletics’ student-athlete liaison with UC Davis’ LGBTQIA+ Resource Center, the San Diego native founded Davis Athlete Ally — one of the department’s first student-athlete resource groups that focuses its efforts on LGBTQIA+ inclusion in athletics.
Athlete Ally’s most important achievement, through its collaboration with Athletics, was creating the department’s transgender inclusion and non-binary policy.
“Hailey’s contributions to education and advocacy through DAA will leave an indelible impact on our community. By graduating with a degree in biomedical engineering, they are a testament to UC Davis’ excellence in scholarship and athletics,” Lorenzen added.
As an undergraduate researcher, Rittershofer helped design, develop and analyze an optogenetic system for cartilage-tissue engineering.
Conference offices will select up to two nominees each from their pool of member school nominees for consideration by the Woman of the Year selection committee. This group, comprised by representatives from the NCAA membership, will choose 10 honorees from each division.
From the Top 30, the Woman of the Year selection committee will determine the top three honorees in each division and announce nine finalists. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics will announce the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year this fall.
Three Aggies have received the honor: Jamila Demby (track and field) in 1999 became the first with Tanisha Silas (track and field) and Kelly Albin (lacrosse) so honored in 2002 and 2004, respectively.ShareTweet