GORHAM, Maine – University of Southern Maine Huskies' softball standout Mary Caron (Lewiston, Maine/St. Dominic's Academy) has been named the 2017 Little East Conference (LEC) Woman of the Year. As the LEC's representative, Caron will represent the Little East as its nominee for the NCAA National Woman of the Year honor. As one of 145 student-athletes selected to represent their institution's athletic conference, Caron was one of a record 543 nominees from across the NCAA's three divisions.
Established in 1991 and now in its 27th year, the NCAA Woman of the Year award honors graduating female college athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, service and leadership throughout their collegiate careers. Eligible student-athletes are nominated by their member institution, and then reviewed by their respective conference office. The conference office the makes its selection for its representative. The Woman of the Year selection committee, made up of representatives from the NCAA membership, will then choose the top 30 honorees (10 from each division). From the final 30, the selection committee will announce its nine finalists in September, with the final selection for each Division's Woman of the Year being made in late October
Caron is one of 53 NCAA Division III women who were selected by their conference out of 198 Division III institutional nominees. Among a pool of talented and accomplished student-athletes, 58 institutional representatives are from the Division I ranks, and 34 are from Division II conferences. The median grade point average for the 145 institutional representatives is 3.88.
"One of USM's and the nation's best and brightest, Mary is quite simply one of the finest student-athletes to compete in a Huskies' uniform," said USM Director of Athletics Al Bean. "She is exceptional in every way and has been an outstanding representative for the University of Southern Maine and the Little East Conference. Mary is a leader in the classroom, on the diamond and in the community. Mary is a shining example of our goals when we talk about the well-rounded student-athlete."
A leader for the Huskies throughout her career, Caron is a two-year captain of the softball team, and is a 2017 first team All-Little East Conference selection at shortstop. Starring for Southern Maine since 2015, Caron joined an elite group of University of Southern Maine student-athletes in her final season, becoming the Huskies' seventh individual to earn CoSIDA Academic All-American ® honors with her selection to the Academic All-America ® Division III Softball Third Team. The first USM softball player to earn the prestigious academic accolade for her outstanding achievements in the classroom and on the field, Caron joins Husky standouts Alison Drury (women's college division fall/winter at-large, third team, 2000), Darryl Whitney (men's cross country/track and field, second team, 2003), Ashley Marble (women's basketball, first team, 2007), Molly Carl (women's cross country/track and field, third team, 2012), Chris Bernard (baseball, second team, 2014), and Daniel Del Gallo (wrestling, second team, 2016; first team, 2017).
To earn her selection to the Academic All-American team, Caron initially earned first team Academic All-District honors, becoming the fifth USM softball player and first since Sarah McLean in 2003 to earn the academic distinction, gaining eligibility for the Academic All-America ballot. To qualify for nomination, a student-athlete must have a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.30 or above. Caron far exceeds the minimum standards carrying a 4.0 GPA in her Master's in Public Health studies, and a 3.96 GPA in her bachelor's degree in Biology.
With her strong leadership presence noticed by members of the University of Southern Maine Athletic Department, Caron was named co-winner of the 2017 Paula D. Hodgdon Leadership Award during the athletics' department year-end honors banquet. Selected by the USM Athletics Department staff. The Hodgdon Leadership Award is presented annually to the female student-athlete who exemplifies the qualities of the former USM Field Hockey Coach/faculty member and administrator, who was a pioneer in women's athletics: athletic achievement, loyalty, leadership, dedication and commitment.
A two-time recipient William B. Wise Scholar-Athlete and Little East Conference All-Academic Team selection, Caron shared her academic ability as a Teaching Assistant for the Intro to Public Health class and the Graduate Assistant for the Master's in Public Health program chair during the 2016-2017 academic year. Caron previously served as a peer tutor in the Huskies' Athletic Department in a variety of subject matters.
In the community, Caron volunteered her time with 4H helping grow interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in a local fifth grade classroom. This summer, Caron is completing a field experience opportunity with the Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC) working in Chronic Disease and Epidemiology. Caron hopes that her educational background and various field experiences and internships will translate into career success as she plans on pursuing epidemiology or environmental health in her post-graduate years.
Anchoring the Huskies' defense at shortstop for the last three seasons, Caron led Southern Maine in batting average (.349), RBI (21), hits (38), doubles (10), and triples (3). For her career, Caron played in 112 games collecting 133 hits and driving in 61 runs. She hit .356 over her career, with 25 doubles, seven triples, and five home runs. Her 246 career assists are third in Husky record books,