By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University senior swimmer Malia Santos (Kailua-Kona, HI/Kealakehe HS) has been selected as the Play It Forward Award College Athlete of the Month for May of 2016, as announced by the Oregon Sports Awards. Santos is now eligibilbe for the 2016 Play It Forward Award, which will be presented during the Oregon Sports Awards show on June 6.
The Play It Forward Award recognizes one high school athlete and one college athlete each month for the volunteering and work they have done to give back to their communities across the State of Oregon.
Santos was nominated for her volunteer work with Special Olympics Oregon during the past three years, including the past two years as the head swimming coach for Marion County Special Olympics. She organized her assistant coaches, scheduled practices and led the practices. She went on various trips with the Special Olympics athletes so they could swim at events throughout the area.
Her efforts with Special Olympics were in addition to her committment to the Willamette women's swimming team. This year, she encouraged eight of her teammates -- from the WU women's and men's teams -- to join her in helping the Marion County Special Olympics swimming team.
"Malia got her teammates involved because she hopes that Willamette swimming can continue to have a relationship with Special Olympics after her graduation," Willamette men's and women's swimming Head Coach Leslie Shevlin said. "Malia loves working with the athletes and seeing how they progress each season."
Santos swam for four seasons with the Bearcats. This year, she earned All-Northwest Conference honors three times by reaching the championship finals in three events. She set a school record of 58.91 seconds and placed fifth in the 100-yard butterfly. She was seventh in the 50-yard freestyle and took eighth place in the 200-yard butterfly.
She also contributed to Willamette setting two school records in relay events during the 2016 NWC Championships. She helped the Bearcats establish a record in the 200-yard medley relay at 1:49.35, and also swam on the 400-yard medley relay team that set a record of 3:58.13.