April 23, 2013
HOUSTON - Led by sophomore Casey Clark as the Rice Swimmer of the Year, Owl head swim coach Seth Huston announced the individual award winners for the 2013 Conference USA Championship team at the program's annual postseason banquet on Tuesday night (April 23).
Clark was the recipient of the Catherine Hannah Award, which has been presented to the program's top swimmer every year since 1979. In 2013 Clark won two C-USA individual championships in the 100- and 200-butterfly and set three new school records to help the Owl swimmers win the league's team title. In the summer of 2012 she qualified to participate in the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Joining Clark on the team's season award list were senior Kylee Talwar as the Most Improved swimmer, junior Quincy Christian as the winner of the Kathryn E. Scholl True Blue Spirit Award, freshman Shelbi Ragsdale as the recipient of the Rookie of the Year award, senior Danielle Spence as the team's Academic Honoree, and Erin Flanigan as the winner of the program's new Natalie Kirchhoff Inspiration Award. Three Owls who were named the C-USA Swimmer of the Week were also recognized.
Talwar elevated an already solid collegiate career to new heights during her senior season. The Jacksonville, Fla., native won the C-USA individual title in the 200-individual medley with a new school record time of 2:00.13. She also scored for the team with a third, and eleventh place in the 100- and 200-breaststroke, respectively. Talwar also worked her way on to the Owls' 400-medley relay squad that finished second in the conference.
Not only did Quincy Christian lead by example in winning her third-straight C-USA individual title in the 400-IM (4:16.45) and finishing second in the league in the mile (16:33.48), her selection for the Scholl True Blue Spirit Award goes beyond excellence in the pool. The award is presented to the Owl who has shown dedication, discipline and leadership, but most importantly consistent hard-work and commitment to the team concept.
Ragsdale capped a solid debut season of swimming at the Division I level by making the championship finals of three events at the conference meet. The native of Flower Mound, Tex., won the C-USA's bronze medal in the 400-IM (4:18.73) and she was sixth in both the 200-IM (2:01.63) and 200-breststroke (2:17.65).
When it comes to achievements in the classroom the Owls are of course second to none. Spence was named to the All-Academic Team for her 3.92 grade point average while majoring in Mathematical Economic Analysis with a minor in Business. The Rice trio of Spence, Christian and Rachel Lu and were all named C-USA Academic medalists this season. A total of 23 Rice swimmers were named to the 2013 C-USA Commissioners Academic Honor Roll.
This season a new accolade, the Natalie Kirchhoff Inspiration Award, was presented for the first time. The award, named after the former Owl swimmer and current tri-athlete, was for a singular moment of inspiration during the season. At the C-USA championship meet Erin Flanigan was sidelined with an illness so severe she had to sit out one of the days of the meet and had to have two IVs for dehydration. Not only did Flanigan return to the competition on the final day of the meet she won the rugged 1,650-freestyle with a 16:29.02 that is the second-fastest time in school history. The performance inspired the Owls to come from behind and win the conference team title.
The awards didn't stop there, however. At the end of the function the program's four seniors, Spence, Talwar, Lauren Lewis and Stephanie Wei passed out their version of accolades with the program's annual "Senior Paper Plate Awards." No Owl underclassman was spared from the senior-razz, but a good time was had as the soon-to-be Rice grads made their good-nature, final parting jabs at their teammates.
Last February the Rice swimmers won the 2013 C-USA Championship, the program's second conference title in the last three years. Coach Huston, himself a three-time C-USA Coach of the Year, and assistant coach Amanda Caldwell in turn received gifts from the team members during the festivities.