SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Bryant University women's swimming and diving senior Kelci Abernethy (Chandler, Ariz.) has been named a finalist for the Honda Inspiration Award.
Abernethy is one of four finalists, alongside Kionna Jeter of Towson, Samantha Bombardiere of Centenary University and Jenna Fessler of Thomas More University.
Judy Sweet, The Collegiate Women Sports Awards (CWSA) Chair of the Inspiration Award Committee and CWSA Board Member, released the announcement and expressed the true inspiration each finalist had in their stories. "On behalf of the CWSA Inspiration Committee, I am pleased to announce the four finalists for the Class of 2019 Inspiration Award," said Sweet. "We reviewed 23 strong nominations, and while each one had a truly inspiring story, these four finalists most fully met the criteria for the Inspiration Award. We applaud their courage and strong resilience in overcoming their challenges and subsequently competing successfully in their sport."
In November of 2016, Kelci suffered a significant, traumatic and violent injury while trying to execute an Inward 2 ½ somersault from the diving board. She accidentally hit her face on the board and crashed into the water. She was rushed to the Trauma Center at Rhode Island Hospital with severe head and face injuries. A plastic surgeon put several layers of stitches in her forehead and she also suffered a fractured eye socket, concussion, and a broken toe.
Her junior year was filled with diving fear and anxiety and she quit competing while seeking counseling for PTSD but was determined to get back on the board for her senior season. She worked hard to regain the confidence to execute her inward 2 1/2 and did so successfully. Kelci finished her career as a five-time NEC Diver of the Week and won a gold medal in the 1-meter dive at the NEC Championships this past winter. She'll graduate as the program record-holder in the 1-meter and 3-meter dives.
The Honda Inspiration Award winner for the Class of 2019 will be selected from these four finalists by the CWSA Board of Directors. A special broadcast highlighting the four finalists overcoming adversity called Defying the Odds: The 2019 Honda Inspiration Award will air on CBS Sports Network on June 18 at 8:00 pm, followed by an encore on June 24 at 8:30 pm, and three additional encore airings to be announced.
An Inspiration Award winner has been selected annually for the past 31 years and will be presented on a live telecast on CBS Sports Network on June 24, 2019, in the Founders' Room at the Galen Center on the campus of the University of Southern California in downtown Los Angeles, as part of the two-day Honda Awards event.
The CWSA, in its 43rd year, honors the nation's top NCAA women athletes recognizing superior athletic skills, leadership, academic excellence and eagerness to participate in community service. Since commencing its sponsorship in 1986, Honda has provided more than $3.5 million in institutional grants to the universities of the award winners and nominees to support women's athletics programs at the institutions.