Honda Inspiration Award Finalists Announced

Senior Jesse Knori from the University of Colorado, junior Bailey Scott of the University of Alabama and Stanford University senior Nicole Stafford are named finalists for the Honda Inspiration Award as announced by Judy Sweet, CWSA Board Member and Chair of The Collegiate Women Sports Awards (CWSA) Awards Inspiration Award committee.

The Honda Inspiration Award winner for the Class of 2017 will be selected from these three finalists by the CWSA Board of Directors and announced this week. A winner has been selected annually for the past 29 years and will be presented on a live telecast on CBS Sports Network on June 26, 2017, in the Founders’ Room at the Galen Center on the campus of the University of Southern California in downtown Los Angeles, as part of the two-day Honda Awards event.

The Honda Inspiration Award is given to a deserving female student-athlete in Division I, II or III who has experienced extraordinary physical and/or emotional adversity, injury and/or illness, or experienced extraordinary personal sacrifice during her college enrollment as a student-athlete and yet returns to athletic success.

"On behalf of the CWSA Inspiration Committee, I am pleased to announce the three finalists for the Class of 2017 Inspiration Award,” said Sweet. “We reviewed all 17 nominations, and while each one had a truly inspiring story, these three finalists most fully met the criteria for the Inspiration Award. We applaud their courage and strong resilience in overcoming their challenges and subsequently competing successfully in their sport.”

Jesse Knori, Senior, University of Colorado, Skiing

At the age of 12, in 2006, Knori was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack the joints.  As she grew older, the disease advanced to where she could no longer compete in some of the sports she participated in as a youth (volleyball, figure skating) which led her to Nordic skiing and the University of Colorado. The disease affects everything from her spine and neck to her fingers, knees and ankles, a challenge for any athlete and especially a cross country skier. Because of her autoimmune disease, she is more susceptible to illness and a long bout of whooping cough and mononucleosis caused her to miss her entire freshman year of training. The summer after her freshman year, Knori’s father passed away suddenly from an accident. Skiing and her teammates helped her deal with the tragedy and despite her collegiate adversities, she earned All-America honors in both her junior and senior seasons. She was a first team All-American in 2016 after finishing fifth in the classic race at the NCAA Championship. In 2017, she earned second team honors by finishing eighth in the 5K classic race.

Bailey Scott, Junior, University of Alabama, Swimming & Diving

Scott, a freestyle and backstroke specialist, missed most of the 2015-16 season after being diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, an orthopedic and vascular condition that compromises the integrity of the arms, cardiovascular system and lungs. The syndrome is considered life and limb threatening, due to risk of blood clots. Scott underwent surgery for her condition in November of 2015, which brought an end to her season and possibly her career. While recovering, her mother lost her battle with colon cancer and passed away in June of 2016. With hard work and support from her teammates, she made it back to the pool and her courageous accomplishments include being a two-time NCAA competitor and the school record holder in the 50 freestyle as well as two relays. One year after her surgery, at NCAA Championships, she became an All-American for the first time with two of the three fastest 50 freestyles in school history.

Nicole Stafford, Senior, Stanford University, Swimming & Diving

A few months after committing to Stanford on a swimming scholarship, Stafford developed a functional movement disorder, an inexplicable neurological condition which presented itself as tremors and seizure-like movements of her whole body, when attempting to push herself in the pool. She lost the ability to perform a lot of the movements she had excelled in for many years. Pushing herself too far, especially when she swam fast, could elicit painful full body spasms or tremors for up to 90 minutes. For several months, she made visits to the best medical and research centers in the country and the diagnosis came back as a functional movement disorder that also had been previously termed “conversion disorder” which had psychiatric implications. The problem was there was no drug, no treatment plan, no cure that any of the experts could recommend. From her freshman season when she didn’t know if she could continue swimming competitively at all to this day, Stafford continues to manage her disorder and her accomplishments include ending her Stanford career as a five-time All-American and a National Champion.

Chris Voelz, Executive Director of The CWSA said, "The Honda Inspiration Award winner holds a special place in our hearts as she is an inspiring and courageous woman representing her school and intercollegiate athletics in a very significant way. The finalists this year are no exception. Each has overcome significant adversity and still returned to compete with excellence. These women serve as role models for all that is possible."

The CWSA, in its 41st year, honors the nation’s top NCAA women athletes recognizing superior athletic skills, leadership, academic excellence and eagerness to participate in community service.  Since commencing its sponsorship in 1986, Honda has provided more than $3.1 million in institutional grants to the universities of the award winners and nominees to support women’s athletics programs at the institutions.