Darton's Crawford Berry named NJCAA Male Athlete of the Year

Darton's Crawford Berry named NJCAA Male Athlete of the Year

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The NJCAA national office named Darton State (Ga.) sophomore diver Crawford Berry the 2014 David Rowlands Male Student-Athlete of the Year Wednesday. The David Rowlands Award is annually bestowed upon the NJCAA’s top male student-athlete that best displays the values of hard work, discipline, ethics and excellence that were embodied by the former board member.

“To say this is a huge honor would be an understatement,” Berry said. “It’s hard to put into words how great it feels to win this award. This is definitely the biggest award of my life.”

Darton State coach Major Robinson echoed those sentiments and emphasized the commitment that Berry displayed throughout his two years in Albany, Ga.

“This is a huge honor to see Crawford win this award,” Robinson said. “Crawford was hands down the hardest working athlete we had on campus. The level of dedication and preparation that he brought to the sport on a day-to-day basis was really phenomenal. This award couldn’t have gone to a more deserving athlete and person.”

Making the accomplishment even more remarkable, Berry is the first student-athlete to receive the honor from the sport of Swimming & Diving in the award’s 22-year history.

“This award going to a swimmer or diver for the first time is a great way to show the rest of the country some of the incredible athletes that the swimming and diving teams in the NJCAA produce,” Robinson said. “The NJCAA has a rich history of producing tremendous swimmers and divers that are able to leave their respective schools and continue on to the next level with great success. Over the past few years, the NJCAA has had athletes go from winning NJCAA titles straight to winning NCAA Division I titles. I know Crawford will make a similar transition in the next two years and we are very excited to see his continued success.”

“I think it will help swimming and diving tremendously,” Berry said. “Swimming and diving are not the NJCAA’s most popular sports – especially diving – but I believe this will provide an avenue for people to acquire a new respect for these sports. I hope that I can be used as an example not only to swimmers and divers, but to all athletes across the nation that your athletic career doesn’t have to end with high school.”

Dominating the diving landscape for two years, Berry walks away from his two-year collegiate career as one of the most decorated student-athletes in NJCAA history. As a freshman, he claimed national championships in both the 1-meter and 3-meter dives. Berry repeated the feat as a sophomore in 2014, again claiming victory in both events at the NJCAA National Championship.

Despite the individual accolades that Berry has accumulated, he is quick to credit the Cavaliers coaching staff for helping him get to where he is today.

“I was lucky to have two amazing coaches while attending Darton,” he said. “My freshman year, I dove under Drew Aultman and my sophomore year I dove under Ed Goodman. Aultman was the 2013 NJCAA Diving Coach of the Year and she’s the reason I chose Darton.  She saw great potential in me and gave me the chance to compete on a collegiate level. Drew incorporated a lot of form work in her coaching, and that’s one of the most important components of diving. She really helped me incorporate great style into my diving which helped me win my first two national titles in 2013.”

“Ed Goodman was the 2014 NJCAA Diving Coach of the Year and was one of the best coaches I have ever trained with. He taught me a lot about the mechanics of diving. He knew that if I was going to defend my national titles in 2014, I was going to have to learn some pretty difficult dives. He gave me the training and confidence I needed to learn those dives and defend my titles.”

Although Berry has received the highest honor one can achieve as an NJCAA male student-athlete, the road to the Rowlands Award was not an easy one. Like the hundreds of thousands of student-athletes across the nation, Berry had to handle the daunting task of juggling preparation for athletic competition with the daily rigors of being a college student.

“I’d say the biggest challenge I faced at Darton was balancing classes, practices, and competitions,” he said. “Being a college student is hard enough, but being a collegiate athlete takes extreme commitment and discipline. Through it all I learned to keep my priorities in order and to set aggressive goals as a way to motivate myself and to keep pushing forward to the best of my ability. I know that I’m a better student and a better diver as a result.”

Excelling in the classroom and the pool, Berry is headed to the Southeastern Conference next season to continue his collegiate career at Georgia. A native of Alpharetta, Ga., Berry is looking forward to diving for his home-state Bulldogs.

“I’m expecting to immensely improve my diving skills once I start training at UGA,” he said. “I know I’ll have to work harder than ever both in and out of the pool. Training with one of the best teams in the NCAA and competing on the Division I stage will be a huge challenge, but I’m 100 percent ready for it.”

The Cavaliers will now face the difficult challenge of replacing Berry but the program’s optimism is running high – especially after having a student-athlete honored with this award.

“I think this award will help the program continue to grow,” Robinson said. “Over the past few seasons, Darton has made great strides on the national level and I think this will help give the boost we need to continue the success that we have had as we move forward.”