ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia sixth-year senior Kayla Smith has been recognized as one of two Southeastern Conference nominees for the 2021 NCAA Woman of the Year.
Rooted in Title IX and directed the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics, the NCAA Woman of the Year program celebrates the accomplishments of female college athletes across all three NCAA divisions. Kentucky volleyball player Avery Skinner is the SEC’s other nominee this year.
Smith, a native of Indianapolis, Ind., earned Cum Laude graduate honors while acquiring her undergraduate degree in Sociology and posted a 3.9 GPA during her Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management and Leadership. A pole vaulter who set the school record of 14 feet, 8 ¾ inches at the 2021 SEC Outdoor Championships, Smith overcame six surgeries and pandemic shortened 2020 indoor and outdoor seasons to become a four-time All-American. She highlighted her career by following up a runner-up finish at the 2021 SEC indoor meet with a second-place showing at this year’s NCAA Indoor Championships.
Smith also found her voice as an advocate for social justice and was a constant presence for the Bulldogs on the community service front. Voted Co-President of UGA’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), Smith was also selected as an SEC SAAC officer and served as one of two student-athlete representatives on the UGA Athletic Association Athlete Board. The Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award winner qualified for this year’s U.S. Olympic Trials and was part of Georgia women’s track and field teams that posted eight top-three national finishes since her arrival in 2016.
Former Bulldog great Keturah Orji was named the 2018 NCAA Woman of the Year following an indoor season national team championship and a runner-up finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships that year. In fact, two of the last three NCAA Woman of the Year recipients have come from the sport of track and field.
There have been eight winners of the NCAA Woman of the Year all-time from the SEC, including four from Georgia. Orji was the last Bulldog to garner the honor and she is the only member of the track and field program to ever earn the accolade.
Conference-level nominations will be forwarded to the NCAA Woman of the Year Selection Committee, which will choose the top 10 honorees in each of the three NCAA divisions. The NCAA will announce the Top 30 honorees on ncaa.org in September.
From those 30 candidates, the selection committee determines the top three finalists in each division. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics will select the 2021 NCAA Woman of the Year from the nine finalists. The 2021 NCAA Woman of the Year will be announced later this fall.