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April 2, 2007

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Softball player McKenna Hughes and soccer player Ryan Leeton have been nominated by the University of South Carolina for the H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete Post-Graduate Scholarship. The H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete Post-Graduate Scholarship has been presented by the Southeastern Conference since 1986 to the league’s top male and female scholar-athletes.

The Southeastern Conference will name the 2007 recipients of the H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete Post-Graduate Scholarship on April 6 in conjunction with National Student-Athlete Day.

Hughes, a senior from Lexington, S.C., has a 3.68 grade point average, with a major in Accounting. She is a three-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll (2006-07 SEC Honor Roll announced later in spring). She has also earned USC Athletics Director’s Honor Roll three times and has been a continual member of the President’s List and the Dean’s List. A four-year starter, she has played every position for Carolina except pitcher. Hughes has led the Gamecocks in doubles and home runs for three straight seasons and in RBI for four seasons. She was a member of the 2004 NCAA Region All-Tournament Team. She has played in 198 career games, starting in 194. She is South Carolina’s all-time career home run leader and is two shy of becoming USC’s all-time single-season home run leader.

Hughes has volunteered at the Harvest Hope Food Bank since 2003 and participates in an after-school reading program at Lake Murray Elementary School. She has also volunteered in Homeworks, working to rebuild and repair damage homes.

Leeton, a senior from Midland, Texas, has a 3.47 grade point average, with a major in Accounting. He was a three-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll and earned Dean’s List in 2004. He was also named to the first-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District III and earned the highest grade point average on the USC soccer team as a junior in 2006. He has been captain of Carolina’s soccer team the last two seasons and was a first-team all-conference performer in 2006. He was also Top Drawer Soccer’s Weekly National Team last season. He was also third-team all-conference in 2005.

He is active in the Columbia community, volunteering at Palmetto Children’s Hospital and at the annual “Kid’s Kicking for Cancer” Child and Parent Soccer Clinic. He also lent his time at a Columbia soup kitchen, serving food to the less privileged.

The SEC Office will be releasing each of its institution’s nominees periodically until the April 6 winners are announced. The schedule is as follows:
Alabama – Emeel Salem, Baseball (Male) / Aymara Albury, Track & Field (Female)
Arkansas – Adam Perkins, Track & Field/Cross Country (Male) / Sarah Pfeifer, Basketball (Female)
Auburn – Steven Segerlin, Swimming & Diving (Male) / Natalie Burton, Equestrian (Female)
Florida – Lee Humphrey, Baskeball (Male) / Kelli Eisenbrown, Soccer (Female)
Georgia – Brendon Todd, Golf (Male) / Kellie Middleton, Softball (Female)
Kentucky – Nathan Li, Soccer (Male) / Krystle Cook, Gymnast (Female)
LSU – Andrew Keane, Diving (Male) / Hali Saucier, Diving (Female)
Ole Miss – Todd Abernethy, Basketball (Male) / Ashley Ferree, Soccer (Female)
Miss. State – Keith Andrews, Football (Male) / Michelle Kinney, Softball (Female)
South Carolina – Ryan Leeton, Soccer (Male) / McKenna Hughes, Softball (Female)
Tennessee – April 3
Vanderbilt – April 4

National Student-Athlete Day was created in 1987 by the National Consortium for Academics and Sports (NCAS) and Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society, and presented by the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

National Student-Athlete Day is held each April 6 to celebrate outstanding student-athletes who have achieved excellence in academics and athletics while having made significant contributions to the community. It is also a time to recognize those parents, teachers, coaches and school systems which make it possible for young people to find the balance between academics and athletics.

Each year, the SEC, in conjunction with AT&T, an SEC Corporate Champion sponsor, provides the league’s male and female McWhorter Scholar-Athlete Post-Graduate Scholarship recipients with a $10,000 post-graduate scholarship.

The 22 remaining male and female finalists for the award will also receive a $5,000 post-graduate scholarship. The award recipients are chosen by a committee of Faculty Athletics Representatives from the 12 SEC institutions and are honored at the SEC Spring Meetings in Sandestin, Fla. on May 31. Last year’s recipients were Florida basketball player Sarah Lowe and LSU football player Rudy Niswanger.