NEC Virtual Awards Week: SFU's Sara Phelan Earns NEC Female Student-Athlete of the Year Honors, Presented By Provident Bank - Northeast Conference Skip To Main Content


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NEC Virtual Awards Week: SFU's Sara Phelan Earns NEC Female Student-Athlete of the Year Honors, Presented By Provident Bank


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Somerset, NJ -- Not even the cancellation of the senior’s outdoor season could dim the shine emanating from Sara Phelan’s (Harrisburg, PA/Bishop McDevitt) undergraduate resume.

The Saint Francis U javelin thrower, who overcame significant injury to twice qualify for the NCAA East Region Championships, produced a list of accomplishments that proved worthy of the Northeast Conference’s top individual honor.

Becoming only the third Red Flash woman to achieve the feat, and the first since 2007, Phelan won the NEC Female Student-Athlete of the Year Award presented by Provident Bank. Former SFU runner Erika Jacobs earned the honor in 2007, two years after basketball star Beth Swink became the Flash’s first winner.

“It’s a true honor,” said Phelan. “I’ve worked so hard for so many years. It’s a true blessing.”

Sponsored by Provident Bank, the NEC uses the Student-Athlete of the Year Award to annually recognize individual excellence in both the academic and athletic realms as well as leadership and contributions to one’s community.

Phelan was chosen out of a pool of 11 female finalists from across the NEC's core membership. The Conference honored Wagner’s Jonathan Besselink as the NEC Male Student-Athlete of the Year on Thursday, June 25 before closing out its Virtual Awards Week celebration by awarding the female honor to Phelan on Friday, June 26.

The NEC Female Student-Athlete of the Year Award serves as an appropriate summation of Phelan’s record-setting performances, academic exploits and consistent contributions to the community. The Harrisburg, PA product, who excelled while studying in Saint Francis U’s demanding Physical Therapy program, accounted for a 3.721 grade-point average during her time in Loretto. Phelan, a four-time selection to the NEC Academic Honor Roll, achieved USTFCCCA All-Academic Team status in 2019.

Phelan, a former high school softball player, walked onto the Saint Francis U track & field team and instantly threw her way into program history. Competing as a freshman in 2016, the novice javelin thrower set the SFU program record on her first-ever competitive attempt at the Wake Forest Open. While earning a bronze medal at the NEC Outdoor Championships later that spring, Phelan suffered a devastating injury that interrupted her budding career.

“The post-surgery year was tougher than I could have imagined,” said Phelan, who did not compete in 2017. “Surgery changed my mechanics and I had to re-learn to throw in an entirely different way.”

Back for the 2018 season, Phelan proceeded to win the NEC javelin crown and qualify for the NCAA East Region Championships. Her triumphant return set the stage for a historic performance in 2019.

Phelan’s 2019 outdoor campaign appeared special from the start. The Keystone State product struck gold twice in the season’s first two weeks, winning the Adidas Winthrop University Invitational followed by Susquehanna’s Jim Taylor Invite. She finished second to SFU teammate Michelle Hildebrand at the 2019 NEC Championships, but went on to reset the program record at the NCAA East Region meet. Her 50.91m throw in Jacksonville made Phelan the first SFU woman to earn a spot in the NCAA National Championship field.

In addition to fundraising for the Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association, Phelan made weekly visits to the Neuro Wellness clinic to provide Physical Therapy during the 2019 fall semester. She has spent time at Garvey Manner each of the past two years, visiting residents and preparing activities for them. Phelan has participated in the Go-Baby-Go Build on a number of occasions, building cars for children with ambulation difficulties. During her junior year, Phelan made multiple visits to the Women’s Help Center in Johnstown, PA. She helped raise funds for the facility, which provides a safe haven for survivors of domestic violence.

2019-20       Jonathan Besselink, Wagner (male, cross country/track and field)
              Sara Phelan, Saint Francis U (female, track and field)
2018-19       Evan McDonald, Fairleigh Dickinson (male, baseball)
              Pascalle Tego, Wagner (female, golf)
2017-18       Charlton Boyd, Wagner (male, tennis)
              Dana Davis, Robert Morris (female, lacrosse)
2016-17       Kyle Mummau, Bryant (male, lacrosse)
              Brianna Tredway, Wagner (female, softball)
2015-16       Max Vogt, Bryant (male, tennis)
              Amanda Lucia, Wagner (female, swimming)
2014-15       Phil Faccone, Wagner (male, football)
              Nicole Sleith, Robert Morris (female, softball)
2013-14       Meredith Ketchmark, Wagner (swimming)
2012-13       Steve Cioicci, Wagner (football)
2011-12       Julia Prantl, Fairleigh Dickinson (tennis)
2010-11       Katherine Bossardet, CCSU (cross country, track and field)
2009-10       Kundayi Mawema, Bryant (field hockey)
2008-09       Alexandra Tomlinson, Wagner (swimming)
2007-08       Tiffany Hahn, Monmouth (track and field)
2006-07       Erika Jacobs, Saint Francis U (cross country, track and field)
2005-06       Joy Gallagher, Wagner (basketball, softball)
2004-05       Beth Swink, Saint Francis U (basketball)
2003-04       Naomi Campano, Mount St. Mary’s (lacrosse)
2002-03       Sabrina Mariani, CCSU (soccer) 
About The Northeast Conference
Now wrapping up its 39th year, the Northeast Conference is an NCAA Division I collegiate athletic association consisting of 11 institutions of higher learning located throughout seven states. Media coverage of the NEC extends to a number of the largest markets in the United States - New York (#1), Boston (#9), Pittsburgh (#24), Baltimore (#26), Hartford/New Haven (#33) and Providence (#53). Founded in 1981 as the basketball-only ECAC Metro Conference, the NEC has grown to sponsor 23 championship sports for men and women and now enjoys automatic access to 16 different NCAA Championships. NEC member institutions include Bryant, Central Connecticut, Fairleigh Dickinson, LIU, Merrimack, Mount St. Mary’s, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis Brooklyn, Saint Francis U and Wagner. For more information on the NEC, visit the league’s official website ( and digital network (, or follow the league on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, all @NECsports.