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Christa Harmotto Wins ESPN Academic All American Award

Story about Christa Harmotto and the Penn State Women's Volleyball national championship team

by Joe Savrock (January 2009)

harmotto.jpgChrista Harmotto is mastering the challenges of both the academic and the athletic worlds.

Harmotto, a senior elementary education major, is a gifted student-athlete who has accomplished plenty during her College of Education career. She has been a regular fixture on the Dean’s List throughout her college years. She carries a 3.47 GPA. She has also been a key player on the Penn State Lady Lions hugely successful volleyball team, which last month won its second consecutive NCAA Division I championship.

For her outstanding performance both in the classroom and on the volleyball court, Harmotto was named winner of the 2008 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America of the Year award. With this award, ESPN The Magazine regards Harmotto as the very best member of this season’s Academic All-America team.

“I was very humbled and honored to receive such a prestigious award,” says Harmotto. “I believe that it is important to excel in both academics and athletics as a student-athlete. I was proud to represent my family, Penn State Volleyball, and the College of Education.”

The ESPN award is the latest of a long string of honors Harmotto has collected throughout her playing career. She has been recognized by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) as a four-time AVCA All-American as well as a four-time AVCA First Team All-Mideast Region member. She also is a four-time First Team All-Big Ten Team selection, and in her junior season she was named the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year. She also was nominated for the prestigious Honda Award in both 2007 and 2008.

Harmotto has made her mark on the volleyball court. The 6-foot-2 middle hitter had 275 kills and a .486 hitting percentage last season, ranking her among the best in the nation. Her intimidating, hard-hitting kills were at times unstoppable, a skill that gave her team a tremendous edge over many opponents.

The Lady Lions won the 2008 NCAA title with a three-game sweep over No. 2 Stanford in Omaha, Neb., last month. They rolled through the season undefeated (38–0), and in fact they won every individual set of every single game throughout the regular season. This feat supports a general nationwide consensus that the 2008 Lady Lions squad was the best collegiate team ever assembled.

During Harmotto’s collegiate career, the Lady Lions have consistently been ranked near or at the top of the NCAA rankings.

Harmotto’s achievements are apparent in her academic career as well. She sought, and earned, an opportunity to do her student teaching in Europe. Currently she’s in England, getting first-hand classroom teaching experience at Yapton Church of England Primary School.

“England is lovely, and I absolutely adore my new class and school,” says Harmotto. “The children at Yapton Primary are such a joy to work with, and I am looking forward to continuing my experience here in England.”

Harmotto noted some basic differences between British schools and American schools. “The curriculum in England is based on a National Standard,” she continues, “and many of the teachers teach every subject—including physical education, art, and music. The schools are run by head teachers, who act as principals. And all the students are required to wear uniforms.”

Harmotto hopes to play professional volleyball someday, perhaps in Brazil, Italy, or Puerto Rico. She also aspires to play for the United States in the next Olympics.

“In fact, I was recently invited to train with the U.S. National Team this summer,” she says. “I will most likely report sometime in May to either Colorado Springs or Anaheim, California. I hope to begin my professional career in the fall.”

At some point further down the road, after she has completed her volleyball career, Harmotto hopes to become an elementary school teacher and coach. “I believe teaching is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world,” she says. “You have the opportunity to affect so many children who pass through your classroom, and you can help steer them in a direction that offers a bright future.”