Many college seniors across the U.S. weren’t able to finish their athletic careers the way they hoped, but for a few women with Team USA ties the awards and honors are nonetheless still coming.
Two-time Olympic swimming medalist Abbey Weitzeil (swimming), 2012 Olympic gymnastics gold medalist Kyla Ross (gymnastics), along with 3x3 basketball star Sabrina Ionescu, were among those named Honda Sports Award winners this week by the Collegiate Women Sports Awards honoring the best athletes in seven different sports; the awards usually honor athletes in 12 sports but five spring sports were not included this year due to the cancelations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Weitzeil, of Cal, had an outstanding senior season that included lowering her own U.S. record in the 50-yard freestyle and becoming the first woman in history to break the 21-second mark with a time of 20.90 seconds in December. She won the same race at the Pac-12 championships, setting a meet record with a time of 21.03 seconds, before hurting her arm. The school record holder in both the 50-and 100-yard freestyle was looking forward to being ready for one last NCAA championships, which were subsequently canceled.
Ross was just 15 years old when she won an Olympic gold medal as a member of the “Fierce Five.” She went on to have a stellar college gymnastics career at UCLA. The NCAA gymnastics championships were to be held this weekend, but despite missing out Ross still closes her career with five NCAA titles, six Pac-12 titles and 22 perfect 10s. She was also named Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year for the second year in a row and was undefeated in eight all-around contests.
Oregon’s Ionescu was previously honored this season as the Naismith Trophy, Wooden Award and Wade Trophy winner and was also named player of the year by the Associated Press, USBWA and ESPN.com. She’s the only college player, man or woman, to score 2,000 points and amass 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds, and is expected to be drafted first overall on Friday in the WNBA draft.
In addition to earning MVP honors at the 2018 and 2019 USA Basketball 3x3 national championships, Ionescu also won the gold medal in 3x3 basketball at the Pan American Games Lima 2019. 3x3 will make its Olympic debut in 2021 in Tokyo.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.