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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Just as much a standout in the classroom and community as on the field, recently graduated Penn State field hockey student-athlete Laura Gebhart (Mount Joy, Pa.) has been nominated for the prestigious NCAA Woman of the Year Award.
Now in its 25th year, the Woman of the Year award honors graduating female college athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in academics, athletics, service and leadership. Gebhart was exceptional in all four categories throughout her PSU career.
A four-time National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-American and a Capital One Academic All-American, Gebhart has devoted hundreds of hours to community service by participating in numerous projects. She has also been a tremendous leader, serving as a two-year team captain for the Nittany Lions, a captain for the U.S. under-21 women's field hockey team, and taking leadership roles in community projects.
Gebhart, who earned first-team All-America honors for the first time this past season, was also a four-time first-team All-Big Ten and first-team NFHCA All-Mideast Region selection. She finished eighth on the Nittany Lions' all-time assists list with 45, also scoring 23 career goals for a total of 91 points in 85 games played and started. The Lions reached the NCAA tournament all four years she played, advancing to the quarterfinals three times, and earning two Big Ten tournament championships and two Big Ten regular season championships. Gebhart was named to the Big Ten All-Tournament team three times. She has also been a member of the U.S. Women's National Team since the 2013-14 season.
In the classroom, the community and environment development major and Schreyer Honors College scholar posted a near-perfect GPA. She graduated with "High Distinction" and her thesis topic was "Gender Equity in Penn State Athletics: Female Student-Athlete Perceptions and the Implications of the Current Institution." In addition to her recent Academic All-America selection, Gebhart was a two-time Academic All-District selection, four-time member of the NFHCA National Academic Squad and a 2014 NFHCA Scholar of Distinction.
Gebhart was involved in a wide-variety of continuing community service efforts, most notably with Penn State's IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON), which raises money and awareness for the fight against childhood cancer. Gebhart annually assisted with the THON Athlete Hour and Pep Rally events during THON weekend, worked extensively as a "moraler" as a junior, and then danced during the 46-hour event this past February. Additionally, she was involved in other THON fundraisers, served as a coach for youth field hockey clinics and assisted with cleanup and maintenance at Penn State Eco Action's Shaver's Creek Environmental Center.
Other community endeavors have included visiting children at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, assisting with various drives for the needy, speaking to middle schoolers about living healthy lifestyles, positive thinking, teamwork and bullying prevention, reading to elementary school students, writing letters to elementary school students as part of the Penn Pal Program and clearing and mulching the walking trails at the Penn State Arboretum. Gebhart assisted with registration for the 2014 Paterno Family Special Olympics Beaver Stadium Run and ran in the race this past spring, and also ran in the THON 5K and the Nittany Valley Half Marathon.
Gebhart held many continuing leadership positions on campus. Within athletics she was a Student-Athlete Advisory Board team representative and participated in the Athletic Director's Leadership Institute. Gebhart also served as the vice president of Penn State Eco Action as a junior, president as a senior and participated in Spiritus Leoninus Student-Athlete Honor Society, the Skull and Bones Senior Honor Society and the Schreyer Distinguished Alumni Mentor Program.
One-time leadership projects included leading and organizing efforts for a screening and discussion panel on Plastic Paradise for Earth Day 2015, which included all aspects from reserving a venue to recruiting panelists. She also collaborated with Fossil Free PSU to organize an Earth Hour event on campus.
NCAA member colleges and universities have nominated 480 female student-athletes -- the most ever in the history of the program -- for the 2015 NCAA Woman of the Year award.
Of the nominees, 207 competed in Division I, 93 competed in Division II and 180 competed in Division III athletics. The NCAA encourages member schools to honor its top graduating female student-athletes each year by submitting their names for consideration for the Woman of the Year award. Then, conferences assess each nominee's eligibility and select up to two conference nominees. All conference nominees are forwarded to the Woman of the Year selection committee, which chooses the top 30 honorees -- 10 from each division.
From the top 30, the selection committee determines the top three nominees from each division and announces the top nine finalists in September. The NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics then chooses from among those nine to determine the 2015 NCAA Woman of the Year.
The 2015 NCAA Woman of the Year winner will be announced, and the Top 30 honorees celebrated, at the annual award ceremony Oct. 18 in Indianapolis.