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Meet the winner of our historic March Madness bracket challenge


Emily Syverud started following women’s college basketball just this year. The coverage from Just Women’s Sports piqued her interest, and before long, she became invested in the storylines of the season.

So when JWS announced a bracket challenge in partnership with DICK’S Sporting Goods, Syverud decided to get in on the action.

“I thought it would be fun to actually create a bracket based on some knowledge, instead of just picking teams based on whose name I like best – which is how I picked my men’s bracket,” Syverud said.

You could say that it turned out alright.

Syverud, a medical student at the University of Minnesota, won the $150,000 grand prize, the largest ever awarded for women’s college basketball.

“I mainly picked game winners based on what I had read over the course of the regular season on Just Women’s Sports,” Syverud said. “I knew that some powerhouses, like South Carolina and Stanford, would go far and I also felt like I had some insider knowledge about which teams could create their own Cinderella story. I also had to root for some of my favorites, like the University of Iowa, where my dad went to college.”

The winning bracket.

Syverud, who is from Saint Paul but now lives in Minneapolis, is starting her residency in June in emergency and internal medicine. She plans to use the prize money to pay off some of her student loans, and she also plans to donate to nonprofit organizations around the Twin Cities, including Keystone Community Services, which connects those in need with food, shelter and more.

As a treat, she’ll also be upgrading her and her fiancé’s flights to first class for their honeymoon.

Of course, she’s already looking forward to filling out her bracket again next year.

“It was so much fun,” she said, adding that she can’t wait to keep following South Carolina as the team looks to mount a title defense. “I can’t wait to follow the team again next year and see how you continue to shake things up!”