Caitlin Clark wins Honda Cup as top female college athlete for second consecutive year

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Iowa guard Caitlin Clark reacts to the crowd before cutting a piece of the net after Iowa defeated LSU in an Elite Eight round college basketball game during the NCAA Tournament, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

NEW YORK (AP) — Caitlin Clark joined her idol Maya Moore as a two-time winner of the Honda Cup, earning the prestigious award for the second straight year Monday night.

The former Iowa star, who finished her career as the all-time Division I scoring leader, joined Moore (2010, 2011), Tracy Caulkins (1982, 1984) and Rachel Garcia (2019, 2021) as the only people to accomplish that.

“It’s hard to wrap your head around. To be in the same air as her is pretty incredible,” Clark told the AP in a phone interview. “She’s someone I grew up idolizing since I was 10 years old and wanted to do everything like her.”

Clark couldn’t make the awards show because she’s in the middle of her first WNBA season starring with the Indiana Fever. She missed the chance to spend time with the other Honda Cup finalists.

“It stinks,” Clark said of missing the show. “Getting to meet people outside your sport is what makes this event so fun. Getting to hear about their lives and what they do.”

The Honda Cup honors the nation’s top NCAA women’s athletes for not only what they do athletically, but also their leadership, academic excellence and eagerness to participate in community service. The ceremony was moved to New York this year after spending the previous 12 years in Los Angeles.

“It’s cool that they are doing it here this year,” said Northwestern lacrosse player Izzy Scane, who also was honored as the top in her sport last year. “It’s great to get to see New York.”

This year there was a tie in voting for the top three finalists resulting in four outstanding honorees. In addition to Clark, the others were Texas volleyball player Madisen Skinner, LSU gymnast Haleigh Bryant and Stanford softball player NiJaree Canady.

Clark, who is a two-time Associated Press Player of the Year, is the 18th basketball player to win the award.

“In our 48-year history, only a handful of athletes have won the Honda Cup twice,” said Chris Voelz, executive director of the Collegiate Women Sports Awards. “Just as she achieved numerous historical firsts in her senior year, Caitlin Clark makes history with us as the fourth two-time Cup winner and only the second to win it back-to-back. With an exceptional class, we are thrilled to welcome her to the sisterhood of all-time greats in college athletics and eagerly anticipate the continued impact of her influence on our culture and the nation’s sports community.”

Fellow basketball player Aaliyah Gayles of USC was honored as the Honda Inspiration Award winner. She has been an inspiration since the night in April 2022 when she survived being shot numerous times at a house party in North Las Vegas. She signed her national letter of intent to play at USC from her hospital bed. She’s been a reserve for the Trojans, who won the Pac-12 Tournament this past year.

“It’s inspiring to know people look up to me, reading my story they think I’m a superhero,” Gayles said. “Lot of people listen to me and recognize me for who I am and love my story.”

Gretchen Walsh of Virginia couldn’t make the awards ceremony as she was at the U.S. swimming trials for the Olympics. Walsh qualified. Parker Valby of Florida also missed the ceremony as she was trying to qualify for the Paris Games in track and field.

Two of the finalists who were in attendance have hopes of competing in the Paris Olympics next month. Florida State’s Joe Echegini hopes to play with the Nigerian soccer team and Division II Honda Athlete of the Year, Denisha Cartwright of Minnesota State is going to the Bahamas Olympic trials in the 100 hurdles.

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