INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Graduate Maia Kuhnen (Trier, Germany) may have completed her collegiate playing career but that hasn't stopped major recognitions from rolling in for her as she has been selected as one of just four Peach Belt Conference nominees for the prestigious 2016 NCAA Woman of the Year award.
The NCAA Woman of the Year program honors the academic achievements, athletics excellence, community service and leadership of graduating female college athletes from all three divisions. To be eligible, nominees must have competed and earned a varsity letter in an NCAA-sponsored sport and must have completed eligibility in her primary sport.
A four-sport student-athlete during her five years as a Laker, Kuhnen has achieved great success as a member of the soccer, cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field teams. She has had the greatest impact in her primary sports of track and cross country.
In those sports, she has achieved United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Southeast Region honors a total of 10 times. Kuhnen has accomplished that in the mile, 800-, 1,500- and 3,000-meters and has been named to the organization's All-Academic Team four times. She has also been named to the PBC All-Academic Team six times.
As a member of the cross country program, she earned All-Peach Belt Conference honors in 2015 and came within a half second of qualifying for nationals with a ninth place finish in the NCAA Southeast Regional. She was also All-PBC in 2013 while leading Clayton State to a third place finish in the league championships.
That followed a season in which she led the team to the PBC Championship, an NCAA Southeast Regional runner-up outing and first ever berth in the NCAA Division II National Championships. She currently holds five program records in track and cross country and, while achieving all of this, she also managed to play 16 games for the women's soccer team over two seasons (2012-13).
Perhaps her most impressive accomplishments have come in her final two years. In 2015 and 2016 she was named a College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District selection, becoming the first individual in school history to accomplish that in back-to-back years. She is also eligible for Academic All-America honors, which will be announced on Wednesday, June 23.
As impressive as she has been in her sports, Kuhnen has been just as active off of the course or field. She has served as the Vice President of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, a group that raised more than $1,700 for Make-A-Wish in 2015-16, and served as the student representative on the Clayton State University Campus Strategic Planning Committee.
She is also a Partnering Academics with Community Engagement (PACE) Intern, Alumni Association Ambassador, student representative on the Clayton State Hearing Panel for Academic Conduct, President of the PSI CHI Honor Society and on the university's Tree Committee.
Kuhnen has also been a member of the Atlanta Regional Commission Millennial Panel and is a yoga teacher, facility manager and challenge course facilitator for Clayton State Recreation & Wellness.
In addition to all of this, she logged 57 hours of community service as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, a Senior Entertainment Volunteer at the Golden Crest Senior Living Community, a volunteer reader and English tutor at Morrow Elementary and a volunteer social worker with the Community Out Team, which helped the homeless.
In her native Germany, she was also a volunteer for 12 years as a Personal Assistant for a wheelchair driver. For that, her hometown of Trier presented her with the Honorary Award of the City of Trier for Volunteer Commitment.
"It is a great honor that both Clayton State and the conference office believe in my achievement," said Kuhnen. "For them to nominate myself and another student-athlete for such an award, I am stunned and speechless!"
This is the 26th year of the NCAA Woman of the Year award and it continues to set new records. This year there are a total of 517 nominees across all three divisions, with 229 from DI, 117 from DII and 169 from DIII.
The only other Peach Belt Conference student-athletes to be nominated are Caitlyn Kovach of Flagler (Volleyball), Whitney Jackson of UNC Pembroke (Softball) and Shannon Coulombe of North Georgia (Soccer). Adding to what sets her apart from your typical student-athlete, Kuhnen is one of just 127 multi-sport student-athletes from that group this year.
Eligible female student-athletes are nominated by their member school. Each conference office then reviews the nominations from its member schools and submits its conference nominee to the NCAA. The NCAA Woman of the Year selection committee selects the Top 30 with 10 from each division and then three finalists from each division. The Committee on Women's Athletics then selects the winner from the top nine.