The American Southwest Conference Athlete of the Year award, in its 13th year, recognizes the male and female student-athlete whose athletic accomplishments during the current athletic year best contributed to their sport, their institution's overall athletic program and to the conference. Each ASC member institution nominates its campus Athlete of the Year award recipients to the conference-wide ballot.
Kevin Cunningham (Brownwood, Texas / BHS), a track and field standout and business major, led McMurry to the 2012 NCAA Division III national championship. Cunningham was also recently awarded the "Outstanding Performer Award" from the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships. He earned the USTFCCA's South/South Region "Athlete of the Year" award for a second-consecutive time in 2012.
Cunningham was the 2012 Texas Relays College Division champion in the 400 hurdles, also earning ASC Athlete of the Week recognition. McMurry won its 14th-consecutive ASC title in 2012, as well. Additionally, Cunningham picked up two All-America finishes at the 2012 NCAA III Indoor Track Championships.
"What a great way for Kevin to cap off an illustrious track career at McMurry," McMurry track and field head coach Barbara Crousen said. "For Kevin to be voted as the top athlete, from an outstanding array of performances by numerous student-athletes throughout the American Southwest Conference in 2011-12, is the highest compliment to what he accomplished.
"Kevin's team leadership was every bit as important as his times on the track. From his gutsy effort as anchor of the 4x400 relay at the NCAA's - by running a great split even when we were hopelessly behind in the race - to inspiring the team with his efforts in the open 400 and 400 hurdle races. He infused the team with a needed reminder that we were still in position to win the championship if we took care of business, which we did."
At the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Cunningham won both the 400-meter hurdles and the 400 dash. Cunningham also had the nation's top qualifying times in both events entering the finals in Claremont, Calif. He ran anchor on the War Hawks 4x400 relay team which qualified for the NCAA's, but did not reach the finals. In all, Cunningham earned a total of 12 All-America awards - and four national championships - during his career.
Cunningham becomes the record eighth ASC Athlete of the Year from McMurry, following baseball/football player Jake Mullin (2009-10), track and field athlete Hann Ollison (2008-09), track and field athlete Cody Brotherton (2004-05), golfer Brittany Cary (2003-04), track and field athlete Talitha Belcher (2000-01), track and field athlete Brad Parris (1999-00) and basketball player Oganna Merritt (1999-00). Cunningham is also the seventh track and field athlete to win the league's top honor, which also ties a league mark with basketball and football.
"It feels good to be recognized for all the hard work I've put in not just this year but during my career," Cunningham said. "This season was a struggle for me because I got hurt midway through. But I was truly blessed with my coaches, teammates and support system that McMurry has. I am thankful to be able to win this award."