BIRMINGHAM, Ala., USA, June 22. THE best the Southeastern Conference has to offer is in the pool. That much was determined when the SEC’s athletic directors voted Auburn’s Kirsty Coventry and Florida’s Ryan Lochte as the recipients of the Roy F. Kramer Awards, presented to the Athletes of the Year. Coventry and Lochte will both compete at next month’s World Championships in Montreal.
Coventry, the winner of the Honda Award for Swimming, capped her collegiate career with a phenomenal showing at the NCAA Championships. A three-time medalist at last summer’s Olympic Games in Athens, Coventry left the NCAA Champs with victories in the 200 backstroke and the 200 and 400 individual medley events.
"I am very excited to be named the SEC Athlete of the Year," Coventry said. "I am honored and happy. I couldn't have done it without my teammates, coaches and family and all the love and support they have given me through the years."
Representing Zimbabwe in Athens, Coventry claimed gold in the 200-meter backstroke and added silver in the 100 back. For good measure, she secured a bronze medal in the 200 I.M. Her college career featured seven NCAA titles and 24 All-American selections, including seven in her final season. Coventry is the fourth swimmer to win the female award, joining Georgia’s Kristy Kowal (2000) and Florida’s Nicole Haislett (1993-94), Dara Torres (1988) and Tracy Caulkins (1984).
Lochte, a junior at Florida, was named NCAA Swimmer of the Year after winning a pair of events at the NCAA Championships. Aside from taking top honors in the 200 individual medley, Lochte prevailed in the 200 backstroke. During the season, Lochte set a pair of American records, three NCAA marks and nine Southeastern Conference records.
At the Olympics, Lochte was the silver medalist in the 200 individual medley and was a member of the gold-medal winning 800 freestyle relay that held off the Australians. At the World Champs, Lochte will swim the 200 backstroke and both I.M. disciplines.
"Ryan and Kirsty are excellent representatives for their universities and this conference," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. "They have competed at the highest level and through their hard work, dedication and commitment have shown the true meaning of being a student-athlete. The SEC is very proud to honor these two student-athletes for their accomplishments. We congratulate them on their efforts and wish them the best in their future endeavors."