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Emily Bryson nominated for NCAA Woman of the Year

After running both cross country and track for the past four years at Brandeis, Emily Bryson ’19 graduated this past May as one of the most decorated athletes in Brandeis history with four national titles and nine All-American honors. It was also announced on June 26 that Bryson was one of 585 female athletes that were nominated for NCAA Woman of the Year. Nominees span all three divisions of the NCAA. 

Following the general nomination process, each conference in the United States will select up to two nominees from the given pool, according to NCAA.org. There were a total of five UAA female athletes that were nominated for NCAA Woman of the Year. It was announced on July 3 that Bryson and Casandra Laios from Case Western Reserve University were selected as the UAA representatives for NCAA Woman of the Year. 

Bryson said she is extremely proud to be representing Brandeis and the UAA with her NCAA Woman of the Year nomination. “Brandeis athletics and the entire Brandeis community has given me so much over the past four years, supporting me through every moment of my career, so the opportunity of representing them with this nomination is such a privilege and a rewarding and exciting way for me to cap off my Brandeis career,” she said in an email to The Brandeis Hoot. 

Bryson committed to running for Brandeis when she was still in high school. “I chose Brandeis because I felt that it would give me the best opportunity to succeed as a student and an athlete,” she wrote. “As a biology major, I really liked Brandeis because of its strong programs in the sciences along with its many research opportunities. As an athlete, I instantly connected with the coaches and my future teammates on my recruiting visit and knew that Brandeis would allow me to compete at the highest level possible while also pursuing high level academics.” She also emphasized the support that she felt the Brandeis community would provide to help her balance academics and athletics.

Coach Sinead Evans, who has been the head coach for both the women’s and men’s cross country and track teams for six years and was Bryson’s coach for her entire Brandeis career, saw the potential in Bryson when she was still being recruited. “She is a really hard worker and really determined athlete,” said Evans. “Not only did she do the work, but she really listened and trusted the coaching and backed off and rested when she needed to.” 

Bryson told The Hoot that the best advice she ever got from Evans was “to trust in the process.” Evans always reminded Bryson that “if I trusted in the process, worked hard and made the sacrifices I needed to be a great athlete, success was possible,” said Bryson. “She always had so much confidence in me, sometimes more than I had in myself, and it was always so inspiring and motivating to know how much she believed in me.”

The defining moment of Bryson’s career came during her first NCAA title in the 3000 meter. This also happened to be one of Evans’ proudest moments of Bryson. “At the time, the win was really unexpected for me, and so I felt like that moment was the turning point for me in my running career and a moment that instilled in me a lot of confidence going forward as a runner that I could compete with the best in the nation,” Bryson said. 

Evans explained that she told Bryson that she was capable of winning. “I don’t believe she thought she could win, but she went with the plan and ran a brilliant race to win the title,” said Evans. 

While at Brandeis, Bryson majored in biology and health: science, society and policy with a minor in French and Francophone studies. She said that she often struggled with balancing the workload of being a student and an athlete, especially with juggling lab courses and getting to practice. Bryson credits the help of her friends and the Brandeis community to help her through.

“My teammates were always there to offer me advice in managing certain classes and in supporting and motivating me through the overwhelming moments in balancing the demands of both,” Bryson said. “My coaches were also incredibly accommodating of the days I had to miss practice, as Coach Evans would often come in early to time me in workouts on days when I would miss working out with the team.” She said professors were also extremely understanding of her situation and helped accommodate her the best they could.

After cross country season in the fall, Bryson said that she mainly ran the mile, 3000 meter and anchored for the distance medley relay (DMR) during indoor track season. In outdoor track, she focused on the 1500 meter but also ran the 800 meter and 5k race.

Bryson also served as a co-captain for both the cross country and track and field teams during her junior and senior years. Evans cited how her work ethic and dedication made an impact on her teammates. “She was really supportive of every athlete on the team, which created a really strong team culture,” said Evans. 

Bryson’s proudest moment outside of academics was the role she played as captain of the cross country and track and field teams, whether it be giving advice on classes or helping them through personal hardships. “These moments made me realize that contributions to the team went far beyond just athletic performance,” Bryson told The Hoot. “As sometimes these moments where I truly felt like a leader and a mentor for my teammates were more rewarding and valuable.” 

She also told The Hoot that her proudest moment in her running career was her recent win at the NCAA championships in the DMR with her twin sister Julia Bryson ’19, Doyin Ogundiran ’19 and Devin Hiltunen ’22. “It was incredibly special to get to share such an emotional moment with them, especially my twin sister, knowing how hard we all worked all season to make that moment happen,” she said. Bryson also added that many of their teammates came out to support them during the race and felt the win was more than a win for their relay team but for their entire track and field team. 

To all aspiring and current college athletes, Bryson urges them to “surround yourself with a supportive network of people who will push you to be a better athlete, student and person.” She truly believes that her support network was the key to her success as a student and as an athlete. 

“Enjoy the process and have fun with it,” Bryson would tell her teammates, having graduated. “In spite of all the pressure you may feel on race day, just have fun with it and embrace the opportunity to represent Brandeis, as doing so is such a privilege and should never be taken for granted.” 

Since graduating, Bryson is currently pursuing a job in clinical research in Boston.

According to NCAA.org, the NCAA Woman of the Year award was established in 1991 and “recognizes graduating female college athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, service and leadership throughout their collegiate careers.” 

Following Bryson’s UAA nomination, the Woman of the Year selection committee, which is made up of representatives from the NCAA membership, will select the Top 30 honorees, 10 from each competition division. Nine finalists, three from each division, will be announced in September, where the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics will decide on the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year. 

All the Top 30 honorees and the winner will be honored and named at the annual ceremony in October 2019 in Indianapolis, I.N.

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