Boise State's Marisa Howard, San Jose State's Ta'Rea Cunnigan Selected As Mountain West 2015 NCAA Woman Of The Year Honorees

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Former Mountain West student-athletes Marisa Howard (Boise State) and Ta’Rea Cunnigan (San José State) are among a record 147 NCAA female student-athletes who have been selected as 2015 Woman of the Year honorees by their athletic conferences and by independent schools. The conference honorees represent student-athletes from 18 sports across NCAA Divisions I, II and III, including 57 Division I student-athletes.

The NCAA established the Woman of the Year Award in 1991 to celebrate the achievements of women in intercollegiate athletics. Now in its 25th year, the award is unique because it recognizes not only the athletic excellence of outstanding young women, but also their academic achievements, community service and leadership. Each year, the NCAA encourages each member college and university to honor its top one or two graduating female student-athletes by submitting their names for consideration for the Woman of the Year award. Each conference then selects one or two women to represent the conference and submits those names to the NCAA Woman of the Year selection committee. In order to be eligible for the award, a female student-athlete must have completed intercollegiate eligibility in her primary sport by the end of the 2015 spring season, graduated no later than the end of the summer 2015 term, and achieved a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 2.5.

The Woman of the Year selection committee chooses the top 10 honorees in each of the three NCAA divisions from this pool to be recognized. These top 30 honorees will be announced in early September. The selection committee will then choose and announce the top nine finalists (three from each division) at the end of September. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics will vote from among those nine finalists to determine the 2015 Woman of the Year. The 2015 NCAA Woman of the Year winner will be announced at the annual ceremony in Indianapolis on Sunday, Oct. 18.

Howard, a native of Pasco, Washington, recently graduated from Boise State with a bachelor’s degree with magna cum laude honors in nursing after a five-year journey that resulted in four Mountain West track individual titles. A Capital One Academic All-District™ honoree and four-time MW Scholar-Athlete with a 3.84 cumulative grade point average, Howard won the MW 3000 Steeplechase three years in a row (2013, ’14 and ’15) and took the 5000 Meters outdoor crown in 2015. She has earned All-Mountain West First Team honors eight times, including three consecutive seasons in cross country (2012-14) and once during the MW Indoor Track & Field Championships (2013 – 2nd place, 5000 Meters). Howard earned All-America honors three times during her career with back-to-back top five finishes in the 3000 Steeplechase at the 2014 and 2015 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships (2nd - 9:43.82; 4th – 9:37.84, respectively) and her 28th place finish at the 2014 NCAA Cross Country Championships (20:35.8). As a part of her nursing training, Howard served as the co-leader of a service learning project that provided a mini-health fair for a local church and administered meningitis vaccines to Boise State students. She has been involved in several community service projects since arriving at the Boise, Idaho campus in 2011, including volunteering at the Barber to Boise race, BSU Thank-A-Thon and Jog-A-Thon. Howard also participated in Operation School Bell by handing out clothes and hygiene kits to underprivileged children and as a Make-A-Wish Foundation volunteer. Howard represented the United States at the 2015 World University Games in South Korea and earned fourth-place in the 3000 Steeplechase (9:50.64).

Cunnigan, a four-time captain of the San José State basketball team, became the Spartans all-time career scoring leader during her senior season with 2,062 points, the most in school history by a men’s or women’s player. On the court, she started 121-of-122 career games and scored in double figures in 105 contests. The Winchester, California native finished her career ranked among the top 10 in 12 SJSU statistical categories, including being the top performer in games played (122), field goal attempts (1,743), free throw attempts (740) and free throws made (538) in addition to her scoring numbers. Cunnigan is a two-time All-Conference honoree (2013 and 2015) as well as a two-time Capital One Academic All-District™ Team member (2014 and 2015). She graduated magna cum laude with her bachelor’s degree in psychology and a 3.70 cumulative grade point average. Cunnigan was a four-time Academic All-Conference honoree as well as a two-time Mountain West Scholar-Athlete. Outside of the classroom, Cunnigan has been an active volunteer with several youth programs in the San Jose area. Since 2012, she has gone into schools to teach life skills to underprivileged youth through the Nice Play Youth program and as a part of the Junior Spartans program. Cunnigan served two seasons as the women’s basketball representative on the SJSU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. For the past two years, she has been a mentor for a 10-year old girl and a coach for her basketball team at the Timpany Center.