All-Time Top 10 Women - USA Athletics Scholarships

All-Time Top 10 Women


We’ve previously ranked our All-Time Top 10 Men, so it’s time to assess the women.

10) Mary Cullen (Providence – long distance)



The first of a number of Irish distance runners to make the top 10 female list, Mary Cullen was the 5000m outdoor champion in 2006 for the Providence Friars. The six time All-American’s best performance at the NCAA XC was a commendable 5th place in 2003. Post collegiately she has gone on to win a bronze medal over 3000m at the European Indoor Championships, a distance she is also the Irish record holder over.


9) Natasha Danvers (USC – 400m hurdles)

The four time All-American was the NCAA Champion in the 400m hurdles for USC in 2000. She also picked up a pair of conference titles in the fiercely competitive Pac-10, which is known for almost being as good as the NCAA meet. Still the USC record holder, Danvers would go on to become an Olympic bronze medallist for Britain in the 400m hurdles in Beijing.


8) Kate Avery (Iona – long distance)


Whilst there are a few athletes in both of our lists still competing, Kate Avery is the only who is still a collegiate. She earns her place in the top 10 by virtue of a dominant display of front running to win the 2014 NCAA Cross Country Championships, having nearly pulled off victory with the same tactics in 2013. There are no track titles to speak of just yet for the Iona Gael, but with eligibility remaining both indoors and outdoors, that could change before her collegiate days are up.


7) Charlotte Browning (UNLV / Florida – middle distance)

After an outstanding youth cross country and track career, Charlotte Browning made a solid but far from spectacular start to her collegiate career at UNLV. However, after a transfer to Florida she really shone during her senior year and completed the indoor mile and outdoor 1500m NCAA Championship double win.

6) Marie McMahon – (Providence – long distance)


The Irish double Olympian earns her place in our top 10 more because of her consistency shown during her collegiate days rather than anything spectacular. She was a three time top 20 performer in the NCAA XC, with progressive finishes of 20th, 4th, and 2nd, in 1994-6. Whilst a win on the grass ultimately eluded her, she did manage to win an NCAA title on the track – indoors over 500m in 1996. Despite only picking up one NCAA title, McMahon’s consistency is demonstrated by the fact that she ended her Providence career as 10 time All-American.


5) Valerie McGovern (Kentucky – long distance)

The 5000m specialist had a glorious two year spell in 1989 and 1990 where she won at the distance in three out of four NCAA events. This consisted of indoor wins in 1989 and 1990, and also an outdoor win in 1990. She came extremely close to completing the full set of NCAA wins at the cross country championships, finishing second to Vicki Huber of Villanova.

4) Lorraine Ugen (TCU – long jump)


Another two time NCAA champion and very recent TCU graduate, Lorraine Ugen was the outdoor long jump champion in 2013 and then added with an indoor win in 2014. She has been one of Britains top emerging long jumpers for a while and should now be expecting to push on and make senior championships for the next few years.


3) Hannah England (Florida State – middle distance)

If we were going by time spent in the NCAA, then Hannah England would not get close to making our lists. However, despite only being at Florida State for a single year, the Oxford athlete made a short but lasting impact on the collegiate scene. In 2008 England won the mile indoors and 1500m, with the latter being in a still standing NCAA meet record and then personal best of 4.06.19. That year she also won a pair of ACC Conference titles as well as the NCAA East regional – pretty much everything that was possible in a single year she achieved in 2008.


2) Kathy Butler (Wisconsin – long distance)

The most prolific female Brit with four NCAA titles, Kathy Butler had an outstanding collegiate career at Wisconsin. She won three consecutive outdoor titles over the now no longer contested distance of 3000m between 1995 and 1997. Add to that an indoor DMR title and the small matter of an NCAA XC win in 1995, and she truly does deserve her place as one of the greatest ever collegiate Brits. Post collegiately Butler was a member of the British team for many years, and competed in both the Olympics and World Championships.


1) Sonia O’Sullivan (Villanova – long distance)

sonia o'sullivan villanova

Undisputedly Ireland’s greatest ever distance runner is also undisputedly your greatest ever NCAA female athlete. Competing for Villanova in the early 90s, Sonia O’Sullivan won five NCAA titles, and is the only ever British or Irish athlete (male or female) to win individual titles across all three disciplines. This historic treble was all achieved in a single year in 1991 where she won the 5000m indoors, 3000m outdoors, and also the cross country in the fall. Incredibly, she also won two titles in 1990, making it five consecutive NCAA events where she picked up wins. O’Sullivan came within inches of an Olympic title, narrowly being beaten at the line in the 5000m by Gabriela Szabo.


*Also receiving votes

Tiffany Porter – Highly successful with 5 NCAA titles but born and raised as an American and only declared for Britain after her collegiate days were over.

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