At the end of a star-studded night, featuring 50 Idaho women leaders and their amazing stories, came a moment where if felt as if the room itself was holding its breath. Nora Carpenter, who was the 2016 Woman of the Year, was onstage and speaking about her year-long reign, and encouraging all of the women in the room to wear their leadership proudly.
And then, she began to introduce this year’s Woman of the Year. “I am taking my fourth-grade spirit guides advice who said: ‘make sure they give you the right envelope,’” Carpenter said. Initially, the person she began describing could have been just about every woman there: “… as a young girl, she liked to ride her banana seat bike to her friends’ houses and talk about boys.” Then, the field narrowed slightly as Carpenter said this year’s honoree had moved around a lot and had graduated from the University of Idaho. The field kept narrowing when Carpenter said this year’s Woman of the Year was married and a mother, owned a business and was in healthcare.
But it wasn’t until Carpenter talked about this year’s honoree as someone who went from riding her bike to work to someone whose work was riding her bike that the room of 600 turned to where this year’s Woman of the Year was seated. And, as her name was revealed, Kristin Armstrong Savola walked up to the stage amid a standing ovation.
In her acceptance speech, Armstrong Savola tried to describe how she felt at that moment, likening it to how she feels right before a race, how fast she can hear her heart beating. “My heart is racing twice as fast as it was in Rio,” she said, referring to her recent Olympic Gold Medal win.
In tears, she talked about the honor and dignity of the award and how much she loves children and being a positive role model for them. At one point, she referred to a group of young girls from a soccer team who had been featured in an emotional and powerful “girl power” video produced by the evening’s presenting sponsor, Hawley Troxell. The girls were all invited onstage after the video played. Armstrong Savola said she had turned to the people at her table and said, “We could just leave right now,” meaning how could you top that?
“The kids alone made my evening,” she said.
Armstrong Savola also said that while she’s proud of the athletic achievements that take her around the globe, for her there’s a special meaning to the work she does in Idaho, a place she loves – and a great value in being honored by people she knows and crosses paths with. She congratulated the other honorees and thanked the community at large for helping her to contribute as an employee and volunteer.
“You have been an influence in my life in Idaho,” she said. “We cross paths every day. We are all here working together for a better state.”