2012 grad Phillips up for NCAA Woman of the Year
In her four years at Washington University, Liz Phillips picked up seven All-America honors and countless national academic awards and was the captain of Wash. U.’s first-ever national-championship-winning cross country team. But there’s a chance she’ll be adding one more award to that list.
A member of the class of 2012, Phillips is a finalist for the 2012 NCAA Woman of the Year award based on both her athletic and academic achievements. She is the third Wash. U. athlete—and first since 1994—to be up for the honor, which is being awarded on Sunday in Indianapolis. She is one of nine finalists for the 2012 edition.
Phillips, who graduated with a 4.0 GPA in biomedical engineering and is currently in her first year of medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, was able to answer some questions for Student Life about her fall, the award and her time at Wash. U.
Student Life: Have you been able to follow the cross-country team so far this year and been able to keep in touch with them?
Liz Phillips: Yeah, I have. I’ve been following them, I’ve been talking to the cross-country team and talking to [head coach Jeff Stiles] a bit. As you probably know, one of my teammates [Gabby Reuveni] was killed over the summer while running, was hit by a car, so that’s been pretty challenging for the team, especially for the people who are still at Wash. U.…So it’s been a tough season for them to go through all that stuff. I visited St. Louis on Labor Day weekend and ran the Early Bird meet for alumni, was able to talk to everyone then. But, yeah, it’s been a tough season for them, definitely a bit of a rebuilding season for them, performance-wise.
SL: Before you received the initial nomination in August, what did you know about the NCAA Woman of the Year award?
LP: I was approached by [Director of Sports Information] Chris Mitchell. He said I’d be a good candidate, and he helped me to apply along with Coach [Stiles] and [Director of Athletics John Schael]. I didn’t really know too much about it beforehand.
SL: So when you first got that nomination into the field of 30 semifinalists, what was your reaction?
LP: I was really honored to have the opportunity. I didn’t really know what my chances were at being a finalist, but Chris Mitchell always had a very positive outlook, saying, “You’ll do well; you’ll make it to the top 30.” It was an honor.
SL: From there, did you think a lot about your chances to make it to the final nine in Indianapolis, or did you not worry too much about it?
LP: I didn’t really think much about it. The applications were due in May, so I applied right at the end of my senior year, and I kind of forgot about it over the summer and wasn’t really thinking about it. There were different rounds—I found out in June that I was the [University Athletic Association’s] nomination, and after that I was told in August that I was one of the top 30. And then, recently in September, I found out that I was one of the top nine.
SL: So what does it mean to be on that stage with the top three student-athletes from Division I, II and III?
LP: I think it’s really an honor. Everyone is just such amazing athletes and students, and it’s really an honor to be among those people. It’s going to be exciting, just having the opportunity to celebrate with these other really talented and accomplished women, and it’ll be great to see Mr. Schael and my coach.
SL: Have you thought much about your chances to win the award, or have you just been enjoying the experience?
LP: I haven’t thought about it, but I’m not too worried about it. Either way, it’s an honor, and whether or not I’m the Woman of the Year isn’t really a big deal to me. I guess there are probably more accomplished individuals that may be more likely to get it, but, you know, you never know. But I’m not going to be upset or something if I don’t get it.
SL: Talk a bit about what you were able to do to balance athletics all year round with your ability to do so well in the classroom.
LP: I think the balance was pretty natural to me. I think I just got really good at time management. But I couldn’t imagine academics and not having that outlet through athletics. Because whenever academics would get stressful or overwhelming, I’d always have running to fall back on. Like when you’re stressed out studying for exams, and then you go to practice and all of your friends are there, and you get a good workout in, and I feel like it helped me more than making it difficult. I think being an athlete made me better academically, and I think that my academics were better as an athlete just because I always had that ability to not always focus too much on one thing, that I could be multidimensional and not have all my eggs in one basket. I could not worry too much about one thing because I had other parts of my life to think about.
SL: It’s been 10 or 11 months since you were on that team that brought home the national championship. Almost a year later, talk a bit about what you think of when you think of that team and what it meant to bring home that first title in team history.
LP: It was just an amazing experience, a wonderful group of people, and I can never really imagine ever having a group of people with an experience quite like that. It was obviously one of the highlights of my running career. But more than the actual finish of being a national championship team—which is obviously an amazing honor and is really exciting to do that for the first time at Wash. U. for cross-country—it was really just the people that made it special. Whether or not we achieved what we did…when I think back on Wash. U. cross-country, I’m not going to imagine, you know, a national championship trophy. I’m going to imagine all the people and all the times we had that weren’t necessarily when we were winning. The little things, like practice at 6:30 a.m., long bus rides, goofing around…those are going to be the memories that I’ll remember forever. It’s kind of sad that it’s all over, but I know that eventually everyone has to move on, and I’ve had some very good memories to hold and cherish forever.