Belinsky Named America East Woman of the Year
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Tara Belinsky has been named America East Woman of the Year for 2019, the conference announced Thursday. Belinsky was named alongside Stony Brook’s Michael Watts.
“I am honored to be recognized as the America East Woman of the Year,” Belinsky said. "I am proud to be a member of a conference that works hard to create the most comprehensive student-athlete experience. The opportunities that have been given through the America East have allowed me to develop not only in my sport but as an individual. The focus on mental health by this conference has allowed me to educate myself on the importance of overall well-being and enabled me to help fellow student-athletes. While I am grateful to be the individual named Woman of the Year, this would not be possible without my fellow student-athletes, coaches, athletic support staff, and administrators.”
Belinsky is the third woman in UAlbany history to be named America East Woman of the Year, following volleyball’s Ashlee Reed in 2006 and lacrosse’s Nikki Branchini in 2011. Last year, men’s lacrosse’s Kyle McClancy became the first UAlbany student-athlete to win the America East’s Man of the Year award, in its fifth year of existence.
“As an athletic department our mission is to develop our student-athletes into Great Leaders; Great Champions and Great Danes,” said UAlbany Director of Athletics Mark Benson. “Tara has been a prime example of a student-athlete that epitomizes these attributes. In her final semester at UAlbany she earned her Master’s degree in Communications, set an America East Championship meet record in the shot put, as well as securing a year-long full-time internship with the New York Giants. I think the only people who might be prouder of her other than us are her parents, Lisa and Larry.”
First awarded in 2006, the America East Woman of the Year honors the top female senior student-athlete who has distinguished herself on and off the field. To be nominated, a student-athlete must have completed intercollegiate eligibility in their primary sport by the end of the 2019 spring season, or received their undergraduate degree prior to the conclusion of the summer 2019 term, and have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5.
“Congratulations to Tara on this amazing, well-deserved honor,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Roberto Vives. “She is an incredible young lady who embodies greatness and is one of the best student-athletes that I have had the pleasure to work with.”
“Tara is the perfect example of preparedness,” said UAlbany throwing events coach Abel Gilet. “No matter the situation, she makes an effort to be informed and ready for any obstacle. A natural leader, Tara leads with her actions before her words, which encourages others to follow her wholeheartedly. Her empathy and selflessness allows her to relate to anyone, and her humility enables her to learn from anyone.”
A member of the women’s track & field program, Belinsky holds the school record in the women’s shot put for both the indoor and outdoor season. She is the first woman in program history to record a mark of 50’ or farther in the shot put, throwing 50-00.00 indoors and 53-06.50 outdoors. A three-time America East champion in the shot put, Belinsky’s winning mark in 2019 established a new America East Outdoor Championship meet record. Her victory contributed to the women’s team’s record-setting point total at outdoor championships to clinch the first-ever America East women’s Triple Crown, where one institution wins the cross country, indoor, and outdoor team titles in the same academic year.
Off the field, Belinsky earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Communications, and is a three-time America East and a one-time USTFCCCA All-Academic selection. She is an America East Presidential Scholar-Athlete and a recipient of the America East Helping Hands Award, which recognizes a student-athlete from each of the conference’s nine institutions for their exemplary efforts in community service and academic standing.
Belinsky has been a member of UAlbany’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee from 2015-18, and served as president from 2017-18. She was selected to represent UAlbany at the conference level from 2017-18, and attended the NCAA Division I SAAC conference in October 2017, as well as the NCAA Career in Sports Forum in June 2017. Additionally, Belinsky served as a member of the Intercollegiate Athletic Advisory Board starting in 2017.
Perhaps the greatest impact Belinsky has made during her time at UAlbany has been in cofounding the Student-Athlete Wellness Program. Belinsky secured a grant from the America East to build a program that addresses the mental health concerns affecting student-athletes. The program, which started working with the current freshman class with the hopes of expanding to all student-athletes in the future, includes mandatory group workshops led by two upperclassmen, who have undergone training from certified sports and performance psychologists. The groups are intended to serve as a support system for incoming freshman making their transition to college throughout their first year, allowing them to develop new relationships within the athletic community and become educated regarding the importance of mental health. The goal is to create a space for student-athlete self-awareness and self-confidence to be nurtured, and to remove the stigma surrounding mental health.
Belinsky leaves UAlbany holding school records in the indoor and outdoor shot put, and further ranks in the top-10 in program history in the weight throw. Following her graduation, Belinsky will begin an internship with the New York Giants.