Florida outfielder Kelsey Bruder added another accolade to her tremendous career on Tuesday after being honored with the 2011 Honda Sports Award.
Bruder was named as the nation’s top athlete in softball after her senior campaign, which ended last week in Oklahoma City where she named to the 2011 All-Tournament Team in the Women’s College World Series.
In honor of Bruder winning the award, American Honda Motor Co., Inc., will donate $5,000 to the women’s athletic program at the University of Florida.
“To be recognized as the best player in college softball seems absolutely surreal,” Bruder said in a statement.
Along with winning the SEC Player of the Year, Bruder was one of six Gators to be named an All-American by Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches Association – her second time with the award.
Just like those accolades, Bruder gave credit to her teammates for this one as well.
“Receiving this award would not have been possible without every single one of my teammates,” she said. “The dedication of our players is extremely admirable and has motivated me to create an even better work ethic. I am so blessed to have played with these tremendous athletes.”
After a heartbreaking exit in the championship round of the WCWS to Arizona State, the senior has continued her career this summer in Orlando with the USSSA Pride in the National Professional Fastpitch alongside former Gator Francesca Enea and head coach Tim Walton, who holds the same position with the team.
“This is certainly one of the most prestigious awards that a student-athlete can receive in collegiate athletics,” Walton said. “I’m very proud of Kelsey for her great season. This is the exclamation point to a great collegiate career for Kelsey and her senior classmates, who leave behind a legacy of greatness.”
With fellow seniors Stephanie Brombacher, Megan Bush, Aja Paculba and Tiffany DeFelice, Bruder helped build that legacy, which includes marked by an overall record of 238-33 and 94-13 against the Southeastern Conference. They have made trips to the WCWS in each year of their careers with two appearances in the championship round making them the most successful class in Florida softball history.
The Honda Sports Award is given annually to the top women athletes in 12 NCAA-sanctioned sports. With the honor, Bruder is automatically eligible to become one of three finalists for the Honda-Broderick Cup, which is awarded to The Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year. The top three will be announced on June 21, with the winner of the Broderick Cup announced on June 27.
Bruder is just the second Florida softball nominee for the award as Stacey Nelson was a nominee in 2009.
Former Gators swimmer Tracy Caulkins, who won the award in 1982 and 1984, is the only Gator to win the award. The All-American and U.S. Olympian is also the only person to win the award twice.
“National awards help establish a strong reputation, and I am very proud to have contributed to the overall prosperity of our program,” Bruder said. “I’d like to thank our coaches, the faculty and the UF administration for their unwavering support, and The Collegiate Women Sports Awards program for its recognition of women’s college athletes. Most importantly, I’d like to thank Gator Nation for the best four years of my life.”
Gator Country reporter Safid Deen can be reached at Safid@GatorCountry.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at SafidDeenGC.