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Athletes of Distinction

BJ Graber Award
Indian River State's Tryshia Centeno named 2012 Betty Jo Graber Award winner

Following one of the most impressive seasons in the history of NJCAA swimming, Indian River State College (Fla.) sophomore Tryshia Centeno was named the 2012 Betty Jo Graber Award winner. The Graber Award is presented annually to the top female student-athlete in the NJCAA.

“I’m really proud,” Centeno said. “It is so awesome. It shows that the hard work that we put in during our training really paid off.”

Centeno enjoyed an abundance of success in 2012, claiming seven titles at the NJCAA Swimming & Diving Championships. Playing vital roles in Indian River State’s four relay championships, the breaststroke specialist led the Pioneers to victory in the 200-yard medley relay, 400-yard medley relay, 200-yard freestyle relay and 400-yard freestyle relay. Individually, Centeno won the 100-yard breaststroke, 200-yard breaststroke and 200-yard individual medley.

“My favorite memory is definitely from this year’s nationals,” Centeno said. “It was awesome being in our home town. Last year was my freshman year, so it was different and this year I knew what was coming and was prepared for it.”

Cementing her place in the NJCAA record books, Centeno set seven NJCAA records during her sophomore season. At the championship meet alone, Centeno broke four records including – the 100-yard breaststroke (1:01.81), 200-yard breaststroke (2:14.48), 200-yard individual medley (2:01.20) and the 400-yard medley relay (3:42.95).

“It’s also about the amount of work that she put in,” said Indian River State head coach Ryan Mallam. “She’s probably the hardest trainer on the team. She never settles and always thinks she can do better. Even after breaking records, she’d be disappointed because she always thought that she could swim faster.”

Centeno’s performance at the championship meet led to her being named the 2012 NJCAA Female Swimmer of the Year. Across the course of her two-year career at Indian River State, Centeno earned 11 national championships and was an 11-time NJCAA All-American. Centeno was also recognized for her sportsmanship with the 2012 Indian River State College Women’s Swimming Pioneer Pride Award.

Translating her success in the pool to success in the classroom, Centeno accumulated a 3.56 grade-point average as a Pioneer and received the Indian River State College Top 10% Student-Athlete Award.

“Since I was little, I’ve always been focused on academics,” Centeno said. “My parents would always push me to get good grades and to succeed in sports.”

A native of Puerto Rico, Centeno first obstacle to overcome when she arrived at Indian River State was the language barrier.

“When I first sat down with her, her English wasn’t that strong,” Mallad said. “That was a challenge in itself – being able to communicate our ideas on what she would need to improve on it order to swim as fast as she could. She not only worked hard physically, but she worked really hard understanding what we were telling her. That is what set her apart from everyone else and led to her success.”

Continuing her swimming career in the NCAA, Centeno will head to Auburn next season. After watching her develop into a star at the junior-college level over the past two seasons, Mallam is confident that Centeno will continue to succeed as a Tiger.

“She’s going to keep putting in the work and dropping those times,” Mallam said. “The numbers that she’s going to put up are going to be even more impressive as the years go by.”

Betty Jo Graber spent 35 years advancing opportunities for women in NJCAA athletics. Along with a successful basketball coaching career at Weatherford College, she was also the Region 5 Women’s Director, the NJCAA Women’s Basketball Committee Chair and a founding member of the NJCAA Women’s Division. Graber is a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Tennessee. Graber was the perfect model of hard work, discipline, ethics and excellence in community college athletics. This award is given annually to the NJCAA Student-Athlete that best exhibits these traits.

The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) is the governing body of two-year college athletics, offering endless athletic and academic opportunities to college students. It is the second largest national intercollegiate athletic organization in the United States with over 500 member schools in 43 states. Each year over 50,000 student-athletes compete in one of 28 different sports and the organization sponsors 48 national championship events and nine football bowl games each year. For more visit www.njcaa.org.


Year Name School
 2011-12   Tryshia Centeno  Indian River State College, Fla. 
 2010-11    Mitsuki Katahira  Daytona State College, Fla. 
 2009-10   Kelly Closse  South Plains College, Texas 
 2008-09   Nicole Race  Redlands CC, Okla. 
 2007-08   Lindsey Palmer  Salt Lake CC, Utah 
 2006-07   Kristina Jenkins  Hudson Valley CC, N.Y. 
 2005-06   Sally Kipyego  South Plains College, Texas 
 2004-05   Chelsie Mesa  Phoenix College, Ariz.
 2003-04   Heidi Brooks  Corning CC, N.Y. 
 2002-03   Natashia Morehead  Gulf Coast CC, Fla.
 2001-02   Yuliana Perez  Pima CC, Ariz.
 2000-01   Stephanie Martin  College of Southern Idaho 
 1999-00   Devra Viekant  Utah Valley State College 
 1998-99   Yalika Barnes  Trinity Valley CC, Texas 
 1997-98   Kaundra Kay Williams   Gulf Coast CC, Fla. 
 1996-97   Nicole Weed  Daytona Beach CC, Fla. 
 1995-96   Tricia Ferrin  Utah Valley State College
 1994-95   Kay Mannebach  Colby CC, Kan.
 1993-94   Nema Corey  Meridian CC, Miss.
 1992-93  Carey Burton  Barton County CC, Kan.

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