Air Force Graduate Earns NCAA Woman of the Year Recognition
Nov. 3, 2003
In Good Company
On Nov. 1, 2003, the NCAA announced the winner of the 2003 NCAA Woman of the Year. Ashley Jo Rowatt, a swimmer from Kenyon College won the national award.
For the first time ever, the U.S. Air Force Academy had one of its graduates, 2d Lt Elia Burrill, class of 2003, honored as the NCAA Woman of the Year for the state of Colorado. Burrill a former fencer, was also one of the NCAA's top 10 finalists for the national award.
"Being chosen for this award is an honor for me and to be one of two fencing women selected as state winners is an even greater honor," Burrill said. "It also brings recognition to women's athletics at the Air Force Academy as well."
In fencing, Burrill was a member of the U.S. Fencing team at the 2002 World Cups. She won the Academy's most valuable fencer award three times and was a three-time Western Region champion on women's epee. Her other athletic achievements include becoming an academic All-American, and a four-time NCAA championship qualifier, placing in the top 20 each year.
A leader on and off of the strip, Burrill was the team captain for three years. She participated in a summer internship at the Pentagon, was a squadron academic non-commissioned officer as well as a flight non-commissioned officer and a squadron element leader.
"The responsibility to both my team and my subordinate cadets taught me the essence of servant leadership and necessity for personal excellence," Burrill said.
In service before self, Burrill was a volunteer for Baby Track, which teaches English to mothers. She also taught fencing to local area youths through the Academy's Kid Force program.
Burrill is the youngest of three. Her two brothers Ashley and Austin also graduated from the Academy and serve in the U.S. Air Force. A native of Truckee, Calif., her parents instilled core values into their children. She is currently working on a two-year degree at the University of Maryland's School of Public Affairs and will attend pilot training.
"It was wonderful to be a part of this program," Greg Burrill said. "I have been associated with the Academy's women's fencing program for the past four years through Elia and coach Salem. To be involved with this weekend's NCAA Woman of the Year event was a special treat for me, not only because of my daughter, but because it was also a privilege for me to see so many young women who have excelled in their academic and athletic careers."
Following in her brother's footsteps, it was Burrill's dream to graduate from the Academy and become a pilot. Never fencing before attending the Academy, she was one of head coach Abdel Salem's walk-ons. She quickly learned the sport and was hooked for the next four years.
"I am proud to be a fencing coach, especially at the Air Force Academy," Salem said. "It's wonderful that women's fencing was represented by two state winners, Elia and Alexis Diane Jemal from Rutgers University in New Jersey."
Burrill, Rowatt and the other top 10 finalists and state winners were joined on stage at the NCAA dinner in Indianapolis by co-MCs Robin Roberts of Good Morning America and Nell Fortner the USA Basketball women's national team coach for the final announcement.
Becoming a state winner places Burrill in good company with the other 50 winners, who have been recognized for their accomplishments as outstanding female student-athletes and who have distinguished themselves through their community service, leadership, and athletic and academic achievements.