Alistair Cragg Named SEC Male Athlete of the Y
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Senior track star Alistair Cragg has been selected as the Southeastern Conference’s 2003-04 Roy F. Kramer Male Athlete of the Year it was announced Wednesday by the league office. The award, voted on by the league’s athletic directors, goes to the most outstanding student-athlete in competition in any of the conference’s sports and was named after former longtime commissioner, Roy Kramer. Alabama gymnast Jeana Rice won female athlete of the year honors.
“Alistair and Jeana are wonderful 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 extremely 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.”
A seven-time NCAA champion, 14-time All-American, nine-time SEC champion and 18-time All-SEC selection, Cragg closes his brilliant collegiate career as only the third two-time SEC Male Athlete of the Year. Former Florida quarterback, Danny Wuerffel, was given the honor in 1996-97 and Shaquille O’Neal was the top athlete in 1991-92. Cragg is also only the second Razorback to earn the honor. Corliss Williamson won in 1994 after leading Arkansas to a national championship in basketball.
“It’s very deserving,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “He’s had an amazing career at the University of Arkansas and this is a great way to cap it off. The way he performed all year speaks for itself. It’s nice that other people have recognized his accomplishments and he has joined an elite group of athletes.”
At the SEC Outdoor Championships, Cragg scored 30 points to earn the Commissioner’s Trophy for the first time during his outdoor campaigns and helped lead the Hogs to the conference title. All of his performances set new Ole Miss Track and Field Complex records and were either automatic or regional times. He was first in the 10,000 meters with a new NCAA automatic time of 28:46.64, first in the 1,500 (3:40.18) and first in the 5,000 meters (14:08.77). With his finishes he became the first athlete in UA and league history to claim all three titles in the same year.
At the Cardinal Invitational Cragg recorded a then world-leading 5,000-meter time of 13:16.98 for top honors. His time broke his own school record and guaranteed him a spot on Ireland’s Olympic team, making him UA’s 23rd Olympian. He capped his season by winning the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Championships, setting a school record for NCAA titles won (seven) and points scored by a runner in NCAA meets (86).
His indoor season was nothing short of spectacular. He started off by reclaiming his collegiate 3,000-meter record at the Tyson Invitational when he registered a blazing time of 7:38.59. At the SEC Championships, he successfully defended his 3,000-meter title with a Nutter Field House record time of 7:59.25. On the second day, he also captured the 5K crown with a new automatic time (13:42.95) and in the process shattered a 14-year SEC championship meet record. He tallied 20 points for Arkansas and shared the Commissioner’s Trophy with teammate Tyson Gay and Auburn’s Leevan Sands. Cragg became the first track athlete in league history to win the award three consecutive times.
At the NCAA Indoor Championships, he earned 20 points when he successfully defended his 3,000 and 5,000-meter titles. He was one of two athletes at the meet to rack up 20 points for the weekend. It marked the second-consecutive year Cragg had earned the most individual points at the meet. On Friday, he took the 5,000-meter crown (13:39.63) for the third straight year, making him the first athlete in NCAA meet history to accomplish that feat. He also became the first UA track athlete to three-peat in an event. On Saturday, his 3,000-meter performance (7:55.29) marked his fifth-career NCAA indoor individual championship, the most of any runner in Arkansas’ legendary indoor track history.
Cragg garnered several individual accolades for his outstanding final collegiate indoor season, including the United States Track Coaches Association’s (USTCA) South Central Regional Athlete of the Year and Male Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. He was also named the SEC Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.
Cragg holds three school records (indoor 3,000 and 5,000 and outdoor 5,000), three SEC meet records (indoor 5,000, outdoor 5,000, outdoor 10,000) and one collegiate record (indoor 3,000).
Cragg was selected from a list of nominees that included: Kennedy Winston, Alabama (basketball); Caesar Garcia, Auburn (diving); Camilo Villegas, Florida (golf); Rashad Wright, Georgia (basketball); Jeff Chakouian, Kentucky (track); Chad Lavalais, LSU (football); Eli Manning, Ole Miss (football); Lawrence Roberts, Mississippi State (baketball); Landon Powell, South Carolina (baseball); Leigh Smith, Tennessee (track); Matt Freije, Vanderbilt (basketball).
Past recipients of the SEC Athlete of the Year Award included: 2003 – Alistair Cragg, Arkansas (cross country/track) and LaToya Thomas, Mississippi State (basketball); 2002 – Walter Lewis, LSU (track & field) and Andree Pickens, Alabama (gymnastics); 2001 – Matias Boeker, Georgia (tennis) and Amy Yoder Begley, Arkansas (cross country/track); 2000 – Kip Bouknight , South Carolina (baseball) and Kristy Kowal, Georgia (swimming); 1999 – Tim Couch, Kentucky (football) and Chamique Holdsclaw, Tennessee (basketball); 1998 – Peyton Manning, Tennessee (football) and Chamique Holdsclaw, Tennessee (basketball); 1997 – Danny Wuerffel, Florida (football) and Trinity Johnson, South Carolina (softball); 1996 – Danny Wuerffel, Florida (football) and Saudia Roundtree, Georgia (basketball); 1995 – Todd Helton, Tennessee (baseball) and Jenny Hansen, Kentucky (gymnastics); 1994 – Corliss Williamson, Arkansas (basketball) and Nicole Haislett, Florida (swimming); 1993 – Jamal Mashburn, Kentucky (basketball) and Nicole Haislett, Florida (swimming); 1992 – Shaquille O’Neal, LSU (basketball) and Vicki Goetze, Georgia (golf); 1991 – Shaquille O’Neal, LSU (basketball) and Daedra Charles, Tennessee (basketball); 1990 – Alec Kessler, Georgia (basketball) and Dee Foster, Alabama (gymnastics); 1989 – Derrick Thomas, Alabama (football) and Bridgette Gordon, Tennessee (basketball); 1988 – Will Perdue, Vanderbilt (basketball) and Dara Torres, Florida (swimming); 1987 – Cornelius Bennett, Alabama (football) and Lillie Leatherwood-King, Alabama (track and field); 1986 – Bo Jackson, Auburn (football) and Jennifer Gillom, Ole Miss (basketball); 1985 – Will Clark, Mississippi State (baseball) and Penney Hauschild, Alabama (gymnastics); 1984 – Terry Hoage, Georgia (football) and Tracy Caulkins, Florida (swimming); 1983 – Herschel Walker, Georgia (football/track and field); 1982 – Buck Belue, Georgia (football/baseball); 1981 – Rowdy Gaines, Auburn (swimming); 1980 – Kyle Macy, Kentucky (basketball); 1979 – Reggie King, Alabama (basketball); 1978 – Jack Givens, Kentucky (basketball); 1977 – Larry Seivers, Tennessee (football); and 1976 – Harvey Glance, Auburn (track and field).
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