Field hockey’s Elena Crosley ’13 has been selected as one of the top-nine finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award. The winner will be announced October 20 at a ceremony in Indianapolis.

The Woman of the Year Award was created in 1991, and this year the nine finalists—three from each division—were selected from 455 candidates nationwide.  

“It’s an award that acknowledges the accomplishments of some terrific women student athletes,” said Field Hockey Head Coach Nicky Pearson. “There are three components to it—there’s the academic component, the athletic component, and the leadership and community service component.“

As the athletic department’s senior woman administrator, Pearson oversees the nomination process for the two Bowdoin students that are annually sent to represent the school before a NESCAC committee. After being nominated by Bowdoin along with volleyball’s Melissa Haskell ’13, the NESCAC chose Crosley and Middlebury field hockey player Lauren Greer as the conference’s two best candidates.  On August 20, the NCAA announced that Crosley was selected as one of the top 30 candidates from the national pool.

For Crosley, the application process began with a recommendation from Pearson. First, Crosley had to fill out an application that asked her to list every extracurricular activity she had participated in since coming to Bowdoin.

“The hardest part was writing the personal statement, which if I remember correctly was a maximum of 200 words,” Crosley said. “You’re really trying to cram a lot into that one paragraph.”

Crosley was a member of the field hockey team all four years, including in 2010, when the team won the NCAA D-III Championship. She was a starter at left back for her junior and senior seasons and was voted the team’s Unsung Hero in 2012. Crosley started on a defensive squad that in two years allowed just 0.70 goals per game, shut out opposing offenses 21 times, and never allowed more than three goals in a single match.

Crosley, a St. Louis native, did not begin playing field hockey at a young age.

“I played soccer my entire life, from when I could walk, I’m told,” Crosley said.  “Soccer in St. Louis is the big sport, and so I was not introduced to field hockey until I was in 7th grade when I had it in P.E. class for two weeks. The first team I was on was when I was a freshman in high school.”

Even when Crosley started playing the sport, she was far from sure that she would like it as much as soccer. Her mother, who played field hockey as a kid growing up in Pennsylvania, convinced her to try playing on an organized team by betting her ten dollars that she would love the sport. 
“I did end up liking field hockey, but I did not give her ten dollars,” she said.

By the time she was looking for colleges to attend, Crosley chose to play collegiate field hockey over soccer, mostly as a way to distinguish herself from the many high school soccer players from the Midwest applying to colleges nationwide. After seeing her in showcase tournaments, Pearson emailed Crosley and invited her to visit Bowdoin.

Although Crosley had been eyeing Bowdoin, she was not convinced she wanted to go to school in Maine until she visited.

“When I visited Bowdoin, and talked to Nicky one-on-one and saw the campus for the first time and met some of the students—I was sold within 30 minutes.”

School had always been a priority for Crosley, and she said it factored heavily into her decision to attend a D-III school. Unsurprisingly, Crosley’s insistence on academics coming first sometimes conflicted with field hockey, but she found that her head coach was more than willing to cooperate.

“I had to take the GRE [my senior year], and that was the only time it was going to happen, and it directly conflicted with a game we had,” she said. “She was really understanding and I wasn’t given a hard time.”

After graduating as a mathematics major in May, Crosley is now in her first year as a graduate student at Tufts University, and hopes to pursue her Ph.D in math. Even though she has moved on from Bowdoin, Crosley said she still keeps in contact with Pearson and the team, whom she visited with former teammate Brook Phinney ’13 when Bowdoin traveled to Wellesley, Mass. two weekends ago.

According to Crosley, she is trying to decide whether she wants to teach mathematics or use her math degree in industry. After doing research with disease modeling and public health, she is considering working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While at Bowdoin, Crosley participated in a large number of community service organizations and campus activities, including Habitat for Humanity, the Special Olympics, and the Bowdoin Outing Club. After applying for and receiving a Global Citizens’ Grant, Crosley traveled to Nicaragua to teach math and English. She also tutored in the math department at Bowdoin and in local elementary schools.

In 2011, Crosley’s former teammate Michaela Calnan ’11 was also named a national semifinalist for the Woman of the Year Award. Crosley and Calnan’s careers crossed paths after Crosley visited Bowdoin as a high school senior. Interested in science, she attended an organic chemistry class with her future teammate and role model.

“She was two years older than I was, and we both played the same position,” Crosley said. “We both played left back, and she started my freshman year. I obviously learned a lot from watching her play. It was fun to be able to take over that position after she graduated.”

According to Crosley, Calnan was as much a role model for her development as an athlete as a scholar and community leader. Although Calnan did not win the award in 2011, she still said that it was a positive experience for her.

“It was a very different experience—something that I was not used to—but it was very positive,” Calnan said. “My parents went with me. Jeff Ward, the athletic director at the time, went as well. It was very neat to meet all these girls who had recently graduated, and see what they were doing and how some of them were very still into their athletics.”

After being notified of her placement as a finalist, Crosley said an advertising company working with the NCAA contacted her to do an interview.  She agreed, and said she was completely surprised when they sent a three-man video crew to interview her in person and create a spot to be played during the ceremony in Indianapolis.

“That was the weirdest thing that’s come out of this experience thus far,” Crosley said.

Calnan had a similar experience when she was a finalist in 2011.

“It was a very odd experience,” she said. “At one point, the guy had to put makeup on me, which was just very weird.  It was just a very weird experience. I didn’t know it at the time, but they do that because in the main ceremony, they did a three-to-five minute video montage from the filming that they did on site with each of the top nine candidates.”

Calnan also added that the award ceremony features a live question-and-answer with the finalists, much like what contestants for beauty contests experience.

“And then you actually go out on stage and they ask you a question,” she said. “I don’t want to say it was Miss America-esque, but it was definitely out of all of our comfort zones—I don’t think any of us had done that type of thing before."

Calnan, after attending the award ceremony and seeing the caliber of candidates she was up against, said she has high hopes for Crosley in October. She also said that she was not at all surprised when she found out that Crosley made it to the finalist stage of the process. 

“I really hope she wins, because she deserves it completely,” Calnan said. “I think it speaks volumes of Bowdoin in general. To allow students to fully pursue their athletic passion while still allowing them to be involved in many different parts of the school—I think that reflects well on the school and the coaches and the faculty and the staff.”