Kristen (Shields) Hinton, ’04, exemplified Whitworth’s highest standards in her pursuit of athletics and academic excellence. A track athlete and math major, she graduated as an NCAA Division III national champion in the 100-meter dash and as a President’s Cup recipient, after finishing her academic career with a 4.0 grade-point average. Following her senior season, Shields and Emeka Okafor, of the University of Connecticut’s Division 1 national championship basketball team, were honored as the two finest student-athletes in the country. They were chosen from among 816 Academic All-America Team members to be named Academic All-Americans of the Year. Shields was also named the College Division Track and Field/Cross Country Academic All-American of the Year by the College Sports Information Directors of America.
During her Whitworth career, Shields won the Northwest Conference 100 meters three times and anchored the 400 relay to victory in each of her four seasons. As a senior she was named the NWC’s Women’s Athlete of the Meet after sweeping the 100 and 200 meters and leading the 400 relay to its fourth straight conference title. As a junior, Shields earned her first NCAA DIII All-America honor with a fourth-place finish in the 100. The following season she was national champion in that event, also earning All-America honors in the 200. Her time of 11.81 in the 100 led the nation that season, during which she also posted a wind-aided 11.70.
Shields, who has gone on to a successful career teaching high-school math and coaching track, said she was inspired to excel in academics and athletics by Whitworth faculty and coaches who were committed to excellence. “Competing on the Whitworth track and field team taught me to make the most out of each day and each practice,” she said. “I also learned that there’s always something bigger than my own accomplishments: building relationships with my teammates, practicing leadership skills, and having a positive attitude are the most important, because those are the things that make an impact on others’ lives. Those are the things that last beyond the glory of winning a race.”
Whitworth inducted Shields into the Heritage Gallery Hall of Fame in 2009.