Two student-athletes from the Southeastern Conference are among the 148 nominees for the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year Award.
Lauren Diaz of Auburn and Emma Mandarino of Georgia, who both competed for their respective school's equestrian program, represent the SEC in the pool of 64 candidates in Division I. The NCAA Woman of the Year program has recognized graduating female student-athletes for excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership since its inception in 1991.
The Top 30 honorees, comprising 10 women from each division, will be named by the Woman of the Year selection committee in September. The selection committee will then narrow the pool to nine finalists - with three from each division - in early October. From those finalists, the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics will select the 2019 Woman of the Year.
The 2019 Woman of the Year will be named, and the Top 30 honorees will be celebrated, at the annual banquet Oct. 20 in Indianapolis.
Diaz finished her time with Auburn as the program's most decorated Horsemanship rider. She set a program record in career wins with 41 during her four years as a Tiger. Diaz was named the 2019 SEC Horsemanship Rider of the Year as well as the 2016 SEC Freshman Horsemanship Rider of the Year. During her senior campaign, she secured an NCEA All-America First Team recognition as well as a spot on the All-SEC team. Diaz led the Tigers to a perfect 18-0 record in 2018-19, helping the program earn its sixth national overall championship and third in the past four years. In addition, she was a key player in Auburn's 2019 SEC Championship. To go with her career wins record, Diaz finished her four years with three of the program's top scores in Horsemanship. Her 12 career Most Outstanding Performer honors also set a record for Auburn, while her 69 meets competed was a record as well. Diaz graduated from Auburn with a degree in political science this past spring. She was Auburn's nominee for the 2019 SEC H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete Post-Graduate Scholarship and finished her career as a three-time NCEA First Team All-Academic honoree. In addition, Diaz was placed on the SEC Academic Honor Roll three years in a row and earned First-Year SEC Academic Honor Roll recognition as a freshman.
Mandarino is a three-time First Team Academic All-American and Equitation Over Fences National Champion and is the first nominee from the UGA equestrian team. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor's of Business Administration in Accounting in May, and will begin her master's of accountancy in the fall of 2019. Mandarino is a five-time UGA Presidential Scholar as well as a three-time National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) First Team Academic All-American. She was the 2019 SEC H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete Post-Graduate Scholarship nominee from Georgia this year and earned the Bernard Ramsey Scholarship for Academic and Athletic Excellence for having a GPA within the top 10 of all UGA student-athletes. Mandarino is a member of Georgia's Student Leadership Academy (LEAD) and was named UGA's Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the equestrian team. She also earned the team's Coaches' Award, "Committed to the G", and Sportsmanship awards. After walking on the team as a freshman, Mandarino grew to be a two-year captain in her junior and senior seasons. She led the Bulldogs to back-to-back SEC Championships in 2017 and 2018, and the team finished Reserve Champions at the NCEA National Championship three-straight seasons. In 2019, Mandarino contributed to the Bulldogs' Equitation Over Fences National Title.