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2020 graduate Nia Akins is the first Penn athlete to be selected as a top 30 nominee for the NCAA's Woman of the Year award.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Last Thursday, 2020 graduate and former Penn track and field standout Nia Akins was announced as Penn’s first-ever top 30 honoree for the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year Award.

During her time as a Quaker, Akins set the second-best 800-meter time in NCAA indoor history. She also currently holds the all-time Penn record in the outdoor 800m, outdoor 1500m, indoor 800m, and indoor 1000m events. In her senior year, Akins was one of three U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association National Women’s Track Athlete of the Year finalists, and one of 10 named to the Bowerman Award watch list. In 2019, Akins was both the NCAA Outdoor and Indoor Championships National runner-up.

After graduating in May, Akins signed and began training with Brooks Beasts, a track club based in Seattle. The cross-country move wasn't easy in the middle of a pandemic, but Akins has her eyes on the prize: a spot at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Akins' recent recognition makes her one the Ivy League's 27 total state winners, top 30 honorees, or finalists since the program’s establishment in 1991. Along with Brown's Zion Lewis, Akins was one of two Ivy League conference nominees that received top 30 consideration from a record 605 school nominations, and the only Ancient Eight representative to make the cut.

“The 30 honorees selected this year excelled in the classroom and in competition while also remaining committed to serving their peers and communities,” said Suzette McQueen, chair of the Woman of the Year Selection Committee. “These outstanding women represent the thousands of diverse and talented women competing in college sports each year, and we’re proud to recognize their achievements on and off the field.”

The nine finalists for the award — three from each NCAA division — will be announced by the Woman of the Year Selection Committee in mid-October. The Committee on Women’s Athletics will select the 2020 Woman of the Year from those finalists.

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