Sterner was Bama's 2003 Gymnastics team captain and NCAA Woman of the Year finalist. Sterner was the seventh Alabama gymnast to be invited to that banquet since the award's inception in 1991. She was also the Tide's third finalist, joining Meredith Willard in 1997 and Merritt Booth in 1998.
Earlier, Sterner had been named the NCAA Woman of the Year for the state of Alabama, marking the seventh time in the 13 year history of the award that a University of Alabama gymnast had been so honored.
The NCAA Honors Committee has named the recipients of the NCAA Today's Top VIII Awards. The Today's Top VIII Award winners are a group of distinguished student-athletes from the 2003 calendar year. They will be recognized for their academic and athletics achievements, character and leadership at the 39th annual NCAA Honors Dinner January 11, 2004, at the NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.
For the second year in a row a Tide gymnast has been honored with this prestigious award. Last year Andrea Pickens won. At the time, team travel prevented Alabama Head Coach Sarah Patterson from attending the award ceremony. But this season Patterson says she'll be on hand.
"I am extremely proud of Kristin for all she has meant to this program," Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson said. "This latest honor is just another in a long line which pay tribute to the extraordinary career she enjoyed here at Alabama. As a student-athlete always far more concerned with the success of her team than her own, it makes me very proud when those on a national level recognize Kristin's individual accomplishments and character."
Including Sterner, the other honorees of the Today's Top VIII are:
- Alice (Duesing) Nightingale, Lake Superior State University, basketball;
- Andrew Hilliard, University of St. Thomas (Minnesota), football and track and field;
- Craig Krenzel, Ohio State University, football;
- Theresa Kulikowski, University of Utah, gymnastics;
- Kara Lawson, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, basketball;
- Eli Manning, University of Mississippi, football;
- Kristin Sterner, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, gymnastics; and
- Leoandra Willis, University of California, Los Angeles, gymnastics.
Two of the honorees were the 2003 NCAA Woman of the Year finalists from Tennessee and Alabama, and five of the Top VIII were recipients of NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. In addition to their athletics accomplishments, the NCAA Today's Top VIII recipients have earned numerous academic honors, volunteered countless hours to community projects and served as role models for their academic institutions and to their peers.
This year's selections include:
- the 2003 Division II Scholar-Athlete of the Year,
- the 2003 Academic all-American of the Year for men's track and field,
- a three-time Big Ten Conference all-academic team selection,
- the 1999 and 2000 national collegiate women's gymnastics all-around champion,
- the 2003 College Sports Television Network player of the year,
- the 2003 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner as the top senior quarterback,
- the Southeastern Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and
- a member of the gymnastics national championship team in 2001 and 2003.
The NCAA Today's Top VIII honorees are selected by the NCAA Honors Committee, comprised of eight athletics administrators at member institutions and nationally distinguished citizens who are former student-athletes.
Captain of the 2002 NCAA Champions and the 2003 conference champions, Sterner was an 11-time All-American and a four-year Scholastic All-American. She was named SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year as a senior, becoming only the fourth gymnast to earn that honor. Of the four conference gymnasts that have earned the award, three competed for Alabama, with Sterner joining Julie Estin (1987) and Meredith Willard (1997).
Sterner won the NCAA Central Region All-Around title last season and helped lead Alabama to a second place finish at the NCAA Championships. She is a member of Beta Beta Beta, Phi Eta Sigma Alpha Lambda Delta honor societies and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. In 2002, she participated in the McCollough Medical Scholars Forum at Alabama. The Ionia, Michigan native, who has earned NCAA and SEC Postgraduate Scholarships, plans on attending medical school next fall.
Active in the community throughout her career, Sterner worked at several youth camps, read to students at local elementary schools and volunteered with the Salvation Army, United Way and Big Oak Ranch.