UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND, Va. - Richmond junior Mali Kobelja continued to add to her decorated collegiate career on Tuesday when she was named the university's first-ever Atlantic 10 Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Not only is she the first Spider to earn the honor, but she is also the first swimmer in conference history to be selected for the award.
"Since her arrival in Richmond, Mali has immersed herself in the University of Richmond and in the surrounding community," said head coach Matt Barany. "She is a swimmer - a very talented swimmer - but there is much more to Mali. She is motivated to be the best athlete she can be, but she is more motivated by serving others. Mali doesn't measure her success but looks for more inspiration and more opportunities to grow. She will continue to build successful relationships with her family, peers, teammates, professors, coaches and her community."
Kobelja captured a stunning seven gold medals at February's Atlantic 10 Championship in Buffalo, where she was named the meet's Most Outstanding Performer to become the sixth Spider to earn the honor in the program's 11-year history in the league. The Fort Wayne, Ind. (R. Nelson Snider) native raced to three individual golds at the conference meet during which she reset her 200 and 400 IM meet records and clocked another career-best in the 200 breast. Kobelja was also a member of the Spiders' four winning relays that included the 200 and 400 medley relays that set new A-10, facility and school records.
The CSCAA Honorable Mention All-American added her name to a list of five other Spiders who have qualified for their home nation's Olympic Trials when she competed in the 200 IM at June's U.S. Trials in Omaha, Neb. Speaking of lists, the three-time A-10 Performer of the Week enters the 2012-13 season ranked among the top three in the Richmond annals in four events and is a member of four of the program's five record-holding relay squads as well. She will also serve as a captain for the squad for the upcoming season.
Kobelja has been equally successful in the classroom during her first two years on campus. A Biology/Pre-Med major, she earned academic all-conference honors this spring before being designated to the A-10 Commissioner's Honor Roll earlier this month. Her 3.75 cumulative GPA also helped lead the program to its fourth-straight CSCAA Scholar All-America Team designation a week ago.
Between achieving athletic and academic accomplishments, Kobelja has also found time to be an active member of the greater Richmond community. She has served as a math mentor to three local sixth graders as part of the Higher Achievement program while also mentoring John Marshall High School students through the Pathways to a College Experience program. She is a Youth Life Foundation of Richmond volunteer and serves as a Community Outreach committee member with Students for Educational Equality. In addition to these experiences, Kobelja has translated flyers as a volunteer with the Manchester YMCA, helped lead the YoungLife Ministries' Timothy Project and worked as a University of Richmond Swim Clinic coach.
While Kobelja becomes the first Spider, male or female, to earn the A-10 Scholar of the Athlete Honor, three former program standouts in Kristin Newkirk (2002), Elizabeth Cook (2003) and Nicole LePere (2010) have been selected as the league's Swimming & Diving Student-Athletes of the Year.
The conference's annual Scholar Athlete of the Year award is presented to a male and female from an Atlantic 10 Conference member institution who best exemplifies the term "student-athlete". Each nominee must be a starter or significant contributor to his or her team and must carry at least a 3.0 GPA. Each institution is permitted one nominee from each gender. The award is then voted on by the league's Directors of Athletics.
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