PHOENIX, Arizona, November 13. IF you look at the list of the hundreds of student-athletes who finished their collegiate eligibility in 1988, there’s no doubt that Dara Torres ranks as one of the most notable.
The five-time Olympian and nine-time NCAA champion will receive the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award in January to commemorate the 25th anniversary of completing her college career. She’ll be joined by five others who have made their mark in athletics and in the community: football players Troy Aikman, George Pyne and Rodney Peete, basketball player Earl Martin Phalen and hockey player Katey Stone.
“The Silver Anniversary award means so much to me because I remember how much swimming at the University of Florida meant to me not as an individual but as a member of a great team,” Torres said in a statement. “Many of the ladies from that team are still very good friends of mine and these relationships will last my lifetime.”
Like Torres, each of the other award recipients have done amazing work after their college days. Aikman became one of the most celebrated professional quarterbacks in history in the 1990s. Pyne is the president of IMG Worldwide’s sports and entertainment management. Peete has found a productive career in television broadcasting, hosting “The Best Sports Show Period.” Phalen has opened a charter school in Indianapolis for underprivileged children. Stone has gained fame as a prominent college hockey coach.
Torres’ accomplishments are numerous. In addition to becoming the first American swimmer to compete in five Olympic Games, she’s also the oldest female swimmer to compete at the Olympics and the oldest medalist. At 40 years old, she made the 2008 Olympic team and won three silver medals. She has written a book “Age Is Just a Number” that has become inspirational for women worldwide, and she has traveled the country giving inspirational talks to various organizations. Her lifelong message of staying healthy and fit has motivated people of all ages.
By the time Torres arrived on the campus of the University of Florida in the fall of 1985 to swim for Randy Reese, she was already a swimming star. She competed at the 1984 Olympics, winning a gold medal in the 400 free relay. She would win three individual titles (50 free, 100 fly, 100 free) at the 1988 NCAA championships before qualifying for the Seoul Olympics, where she won two more relay medals.
Torres also had a brief stint as a volleyball player during her fifth year at Florida. Her postgrad career was highlighted by her first Olympic gold medal in the 400 free relay at the 1992 Olympics.
In the years between her Olympic appearances, she became famous for the Tae-Bo exercise craze, helping creator Billy Blanks spread the message of high-intensity fitness throughout the world.
Thanks to her years working with Blanks, she was in remarkable shape during her first comeback, making the 2000 Olympic team and winning five medals, including her first individual medals (50 free, 100 fly, 100 free).
After giving birth to daughter Tessa in 2006, Torres worked her way back into prime swimming shape, and became the first 40-year-old swimmer to make a swimming Olympic roster. She was .01 away from an individual gold medal, taking silver in the 50 free, as well as two silvers in the 400 free relay and 400 medley relay.
“Swimming in college and competing against some of the best athletes in the world meant so much,” Torres said. “It’s what I learned outside of the pool about being a good teammate and person, giving back and always trying to help young kids get better (that) defines the person and mother I am today.”
The six will receive their award at the 2014 NCAA Convention in San Diego, which will be held January 15-18.