Rachael Acker named Pac-12 Woman of the Year

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If there’s truth to the adage that sports build character, there is no stronger endorsement than former Cal swimmer Rachael Acker.

As a three-time Academic All-American, 2016 Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the year for women’s swimming and diving and the female Cal athlete with the highest graduating GPA, as of July 20, Acker can add the title of Pac-12 Woman of the Year to her achievements.

The honor serves to acknowledge her commitment towards excellence throughout her combined years as a student-athlete. Acker is the first recipient from Cal to win the Pac-12 Woman of the Year award since its establishment in 200, and the sixth swimmer to receive the honor.

As the award winner, Acker has received an automatic conference nomination for the NCAA Woman of the Year award. The award is contingent of academic, athletic and community service involvement and receives nominations from outstanding female athletes across the three divisions of NCAA college sports.

Acker attended the 2013 World University Games in Kazan, Russia where she earned a silver medal with USA’s 400-meter freestyle relay team and a gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle relay. In 2013, Acker became a Pac-12 champion in the 200-yard freestyle, establishing herself as an instrumental swimmer on the Cal roster.

As a member of Cal’s 800-yard free relay that won the NCAA championship in 2014, Acker helped the Bears build off of their success to win the national team title in the 2015 season. Her swimming legacy will stay with the program as a record holder for the 100-yard freestyle, where she holds 10th place on Cal’s all time list.

Acker flourished in her academics during her time at Cal, earning an impressive 3.96 GPA as a French major. She received a certificate of distinction from the French Department and an Oscar Geballe Postgraduate Scholarship, qualifying to be a finalist for the University Medal as the top graduate at UC Berkeley.

Looking to study medicine, Acker plans to attend medical school after completing a 10-month program as a Fulbright scholar, researching at the University of Rennes. During her 10 month in France, Acker will conduct independent biology research assisted by the faculty at Rennes and plans to take masters courses in biology to prepare herself for medical school.

Aside from her many student-athlete involvements, Acker was an avid volunteer devoted to bettering the community. From volunteering at the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen to co-founding the Golden Bear Sock Drive with former women’s lacrosse player Nicole Beck, Acker helped improve the lives of the city of Berkeley homeless community. She served as a volunteer crisis counselor on a suicide prevention line during her time at UC Berkeley, administering text messages through the service.

From the hundreds of college nominations for the NCAA Woman of the Year award, the selection committee will narrow the finalists to 30. The winner of the award will be announced at the annual dinner ceremony Oct. 16 in Indianapolis.

Regardless of whether Acker will progress to become the NCAA Woman of the Year, she is an embodiment of the student-athlete the award seeks to acknowledge.

Contact Helen Thomas-McLean at [email protected].