BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Senior Christine Magnuson, freshman Aleksa Akerfelds and head coach Matt Kredich were all honored by the Southeastern Conference for their accomplishments over the past year. Magnuson was named the SEC Female Swimmer of the Year and SEC Female Co-Scholar-Athlete of the Year, while Akerfelds was voted the SEC Female Freshman of the Year. Head swimming coach Matt Kredich was named the SEC Co-Head Coach of the Year. The Lady Vols finished fourth in the conference championship meet last week with 477 points.
"The SEC Championship was an amazing meet for our team," Magnuson said. "It definitely showed where we are headed. I'm excited not only for my swims, but for the team's overall experience as well. We had a lot of amazing swims. It was great that other teams were noticing that. It was fun to have other swimmers come up and say 'your team looks really good.'"
Magnuson's performance at the SEC meet last week helped secure her title as the conference's swimmer of the year and her fourth Division I National Swimmer of the Week award. The Tinley Park, Ill., native set SEC records in the 200y free (1:43.00), and 100y fly (51.48) and school records in the 50y (22.03), 100y (48.17) and 200y free and 100y fly. She also helped four relay teams earn first through fourth placements, all with new Lady Vol-best marks.
"As a freshman, I thought to myself 'Wow, the SEC is so fast. I just hope that I can get on the podium more,'" Magnuson said. "Having a meet like this where I walk away with four gold, a silver and a bronze definitely never occurred to me. Swimmers like [Georgia's] Mary DeScenza and Kara Lynn Joyce won everything. Now I see myself more in their shoes."
For her efforts at the meet, Magnuson was awarded the Commissioner's Trophy for the female athlete who earned the most points for her team and was voted the Lady Vol Athlete of the Week. Throughout her senior year, the 16-time All-American was named the SEC Swimmer of the Week twice and the National Collegiate Swimmer of the Week four times, including this last week. She also picked up UT's first National Swimmer of the Week award from SwimmingWorld magazine. She is the first Lady Vol to be named the SEC Swimmer of the Year.
Magnuson was also honored by the conference as the Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year, with Auburn's Kara Denby. Magnuson maintains a 3.70 GPA in exercise science and has been on the Thornton Center Academic Honor Roll all seven semesters she has competed at UT and was on the SEC Honor Roll each of the last three years.
"It is such an honor to get the scholar-athlete award in this conference," Kredich said. "I saw the list of candidates when I was voting and there were so many impressive student-athletes. To have Christine be singled out as the best is a tremendous honor that she deserves. She is such a conscientious member of the community and a tremendous athlete. To me, that award represents what Lady Vols strive for. To me, that is the greatest honor anyone can get in this conference."
"I am especially excited about being named the scholar-athlete of the year," Magnuson said. "I always thought it was really important to be well rounded and not just focus on swimming. This award is a great honor."
Akerfelds, from Bronxville, N.Y., placed third in the first individual swimming event of the championship meet, the 500y free, in a school-record setting 4:42.91. She picked up another bronze medal and school record in the 400y IM. She also won the silver in the 1650y freestyle with a time of 16:00.11, bringing down UT's record in both the 1000y and 1650y free in the process.
"The SEC is very well-known for its distance freestyle and IM events," Kredich said. "So for a freshman to come in and have the kind of impact that Aleksa has had in this conference is amazing. She had another incredible performance at the SEC Championship meet and it is great for her to be recognized for that."
In just her freshman year, Akerfelds swam personal-best times in the 500y and 1000y freestyle on several different occasions. She swept the distance freestyle events in the meets versus Louisville, Northwestern, Indiana and Florida. For her efforts in the Northwestern and Indiana contests, she was named the National Collegiate Swimmer of the Week and the Lady Vol Athlete of the Week, respectively.
Kredich is in just his third year at the helm of the Lady Vol program, but has brought the team to new levels. The squad's No. 7 ranking by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) and fourth-place finish at the conference championship meet are major improvements from recent years. The honor is Kredich's first SEC Coach of the Year award and the first for Tennessee's women's program. He shares it with the coach of Florida's women's team, Gregg Troy. Prior to Kredich's time on Rocky Top, the Durham, N.C., native was a four-time Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year at the University of Richmond.
"It is always nice to be recognized by your peers," Kredich said. "Especially when you're in a conference which has such great coaches like the SEC does."
In addition to the yearly awards, five Lady Vols were named to the All-SEC First Team (Magnuson, senior Lauren LeRoy, sophomore Michele King, and juniors Carly Mathes and Brittany Nauta). Akerfelds also earned a spot on the second team. First-team honors are awarded to those who win the gold medal at the SEC Championship meet, while those on the second team earned runner-up placements.