Slinden, a native of Menomonie, Wis., is one of 50 state honorees chosen in 2002 by the NCAA and will remain in contention to become one of 10 student-athletes named in October as finalists for the national award. The NCAA Woman of the Year awards dinner will be held Nov. 2 at the Westin Indianapolis Hotel in Indianapolis, Ind. Slinden will attempt to join former Lady Vol swimmer Catherine Byrne (1992) as a national winner.
The NCAA Woman of the Year program honors outstanding female student-athletes who have excelled in academics, athletics and community leadership, and have completed their collegiate athletics eligibility. More than 340 student-athletes were nominated for this yearís award by their colleges and universities.
''Diane has been a marvelous example of what we want Lady Vols to stand for,'' said Tennessee Womenís Athletics Director Joan Cronan. ''In addition to all she accomplished athletically and academically, I thought one of her biggest highlights was being named the campus-wide University of Tennessee Volunteer of the Year. This certainly adds to her legacy of not only being an All-America-caliber athlete and student but also serving as an excellent representative of UT.''
Slinden is in the process of finishing her degree in the daunting major of biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology. She is also adding a minor in secondary education and is on track to graduate in May 2003. Her pursuit of that course of study, combined with her challenging competition and practice schedules, would seem to be a difficult load to balance. The energetic Slinden, however, wasnít fazed, as she was twice chosen for Verizon Academic All-District IV second-team honors, made the Lady Vol Academic Honor Roll four times and was selected three times to the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll. Other academic distinction included advancing to the finalist round for an NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship and earning membership into Beta Beta Beta National Honor Society.
One of the track and field teamís tri-captains in 2001 and 2002, and vice president of the schoolís Student- Athlete Advisory Committee in 2001-02, Slinden was a four-time NCAA Outdoor Championships qualifier in the discus, earning All-America status for a seventh-place finish as a junior. She capped a fantastic senior campaign with UTís first SEC discus title since 1992, winning the crown with a facility-record throw of 180 feet, one inch at Mississippi Stateís Carl Maddox Track.
During Slindenís stellar career with the Lady Vols, she qualified four times for entrance into USA summer national meets, including the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials. In her final two years at Tennessee, she led the SEC with the top throw in the discus. She ranks number three all-time on UTís discus performers list and is the school and Stokely Athletics Center record holder for the weight throw. Additionally, she is second at Tennessee on the hammer throw list.
If that wasnít enough, Slinden has volunteered in her spare time for over a dozen community outreach projects in such areas as the Muscular Dystrophy Association, literacy programs, and at-risk youth and womenís shelters, and organized a Sept. 11 relief fund. Her work with area agencies, schools and fund-raisers did not go unnoticed, as she was chosen as the Volunteer of the Year for the entire UT campus in 2002. The Southeastern Conference also recognized her twice during her senior campaign, as she was chosen to its Good Works Team and was awarded a Community Service Award Scholarship.
''I am extremely honored to receive this recognition,'' Slinden said. ''Really, it is an honor just to be nominated and to represent the entire Womenís Athletics Department. Through my motherís long-time involvement in athletics, I have been aware of the NCAA Woman of the Year program for many years. I can remember being in awe of some of the winners and their accomplishments when I was in high school, and just being in that kind of company now gives me goosebumps.''
Slinden joins past UT state winners Patty Wiegand (track & field, 1991), Byrne, Tse Lan Lee (tennis, 1993), Katharina Larsson (golf, 1994), Michelle Marciniak (basketball, 1996), Tracy Bonner (diving, 1997), Leslie Henley (track & field, 1998), Kathy Pesek (diving, 1999) and Lizzy Flynt (diving, 2001).