PHOTO AND STORY COURTESY CRCA
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The Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association is pleased to announce the four student-athletes selected by the CRCA Awards Committee to receive the prestigious 2023 “Athlete of the Year” Award. In its second year, the Athlete of the Year award provides a unique opportunity for the CRCA to acknowledge and recognize the individual efforts, impactful actions, and remarkable outcomes achieved over the academic year—a span during which these student-athletes have undeniably left a positive impact on their respective teams.
This year, the awards committee received a remarkable pool of candidates nominated by their head coaches, who believed their student-athletes merit the prestigious award. These athletes not only contributed to their teams success, but they also embody the essence of being a top performer in a sport where individual recognition is so rare. Congratulations to the following student-athletes for their outstanding accomplishments, dedication to the sport of rowing and commitment to their team’s success.
DIVISION I: AZJA CZAJKOWSKI, STANFORD UNIVERSITY
Azja Czajkowski is one of the Cardinals most decorated athletes in program history. After an incredible season, Azja helped Stanford capture its second consecutive Pac-12 Conference Title. She also was named the Pac-12 Athlete of the Year, for the second consecutive year in a row. Azja is the Cardinal’s first-ever two-time Athlete of the Year award winner. As she and her team headed to NCAA’s, Azja helped her teammates win the Varsity 8, and with a win in the 2V8, Stanford captured the 2023 NCAA National Championship, earning its first team national championship since 2009. The accolades continued, as Azja was named Pocock First Team All-American for two consecutive years in a row. To top off an incredible year, Azja has been named an alternate to represent the United States at the 2023 World Rowing Championships.
Coach Brynes on Azja:
“When I think about Azja’s impact on our team, how she positively affected the women around her and how she continues to find time after graduation to mentor women on our team, I am reminded of a scene from the movie The Town. Ben Affleck’s character walks up to his friend and says, “I need your help. I can’t tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it later and we’re gonna hurt some people.” To which his friend replies, “Whose car are we gonna take?” That’s how we all feel about Azja. No questions asked. We will always be in her corner waiting and willing to storm the castle alongside her.”
DIVISION II: FAITH BROOKS, UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL OKLAHOMA
Throughout Faith’s career, she has been central to the success at Central Oklahoma. Faith was named the GNAC ‘Freshman of the Year’ in 2021 in addition to helping UCO win its third National Championship as a member of the Varsity 8+. Faith earned All-GNAC Team Honors in ’22 and ’23 in addition to being named Pocock Second Team All-American in 2022 and First Team All-American in 2023. Faith helped the Broncos win their second GNAC title in three years and guided the team to a 2023 NCAA Division II National Runner-Up performance. UCO has finished first, fifth, and second in three seasons with Brooks in the boat.
Coach Gilbert of Faith:
“It’s an incredible honor for Faith to have been nominated alongside Macie and Sarah – they are all smart, strong, dedicated women. Faith recognizes that hers, and our teams’ achievements are the sum of everyone in the Boathouse contributing to something that is greater than themselves. She is modest in her abilities yet strives from whatever seat she is in to motivate, inspire and bring out the best in those around her. She was an incredible captain for UCO this past season and I cannot wait to see what she will achieve in her final year. “
DIVISION III: ANNEKA HALLSTROM, WELLESLEY COLLEGE
Anneka was a critical member of the Varsity 8 for Wellesley. She and her V8+ boatmates won the 2023 NEWMAC Championship and the 2023 National Invitational Rowing Championship, placed second at the 2022 Head Of The Charles, and received two NEWMAC ‘Boat of the Week’ awards. Anneka helped guide the Blue to its second consecutive NCAA Division III Championship by winning the V8 Grand Final in May at the NCAA Championships.. Additionally, Anneka was named a Pocock First Team All-American, in addition to the 2023 NEWMAC’s Rower of the Year Award and also was named to the 2023 NEWMAC All-Conference First Team.
Coach Spillane on Anneka:
“Anneka has been a huge source of our speed in the last 5 seasons of competition. She is dedicated, determined, loving and thoughtful. She is the teammate everyone wants on their team, the student-athlete every coach wants to coach, and she is so deserving of this incredible honor. Anneka is a fierce competitor, a loyal teammate and a generous human. She has been a mainstay in the Wellesley Varsity 8+ since the fall of her first year. Wherever I have ever placed Anneka in the boat she simply makes any boat go faster by creating a positive and productive environment for her teammates and for simply pushing the standards ever higher, whether on the water or off the water. On top of all of her athletic and academic excellence, she is humble, thoughtful and so very kind to all around her. She will be very missed by all members of our team and coaching staff!”
LIGHTWEIGHT: ANA ORRIOLS, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY
Ana was not only a member of Georgetown’s lightweight V8+ boat, but as the stroke this entire season, she was the backbone of the crew. Anna’s exceptional leadership was instrumental in enabling the team to achieve a level of success that would have been unattainable without her guidance. Her V8+ captured bronze at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association’s National Championships in June and Ana was named a CRCA Pocock All-American for her accomplishments. Not only was she recognized by the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) Board of Stewards and named to the IRA All-Academic Team, she also was a Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Scholar-Athlete.
Coach Wilkowski on Ana:
“Ana is one of the best athletes I have had the pleasure of coaching in my tenure. She is the epitome of grit and determination and has been a pillar on our team for the past four years. Her tenacity, work ethic and leadership within our program will leave a lasting impact for many years to come.”