Even after graduating, Kate O’Neill ’03, a star on the women’s cross country and track and field teams for the past four years, continues to collect honors recognizing her incredible Yale career.

Last Friday, the NCAA named O’Neill the Connecticut winner of its Woman of the Year award. A committee composed of representatives of NCAA institutions picked winners in each state and will announce 10 finalists later this month for the national award. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics will then choose a national winner and announce its decision at a dinner in Indianapolis Nov. 1.

“I’m really excited,” O’Neill said. “It was a nice surprise.”

O’Neill finds herself in good company. Past winners of the Connecticut state award include current WNBA and ex-University of Connecticut basketball players Sue Bird and Rebecca Lobo. Lobo also won the national Woman of the Year award in 1995.

O’Neill is only the second Yale woman to win the state award in its 13-year history, and the first since 1991.

According to an NCAA press release, the Woman of the Year award “honors outstanding female student-athletes who have excelled in academics, athletics and community leadership, and have completed their collegiate athletics eligibility.”

Academically, O’Neill performed well, graduating last spring as a history major with a 3.62 GPA.

Her community service activities included tutoring elementary school students and serving as a coordinator for Harmony Place, a center where Yale student volunteers work with the homeless.

O’Neill was prolific in her Yale athletic career, and the list of her personal athletic accomplishments and honors is extensive. She earned All-American honors seven times including every season during her junior and senior years. In her senior year she was runner-up in three consecutive national championships — cross country, the indoor 5,000 meters, and the outdoor 10,000 meters. Last spring, she was a first-team selection as a Verizon Academic All-American for women’s cross country/track and field. Additionally, she was named Mondo Northeast District Track and Field Athlete of the Year. At last year’s Heptagonal Championships, O’Neill was the Most Outstanding Performer along with sister Laura O’Neill ’03. She and Laura are the only runners in the Ivy League ever to break 16 minutes in the 5,000 and 33 minutes in the 10,000. Kate holds school records in the 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000.

Currently O’Neill is working for Yale and training for road races this fall, but she has lofty long-term goals.

“My main focus for this year will be the world cross country trials,” she said.

She hopes to make the national team that will compete in the 2004 World Cross Country Championships in Belgium. Ultimately, she wants to run in the Olympic Trials next summer.