GREENVILLE, S.C. — Furman’s Anna Morgan and Cameron Ponder have been voted the 2021-22 Southern Conference Female and Bob Waters Male Athlete of the Year, respectively, as announced today by the league office.
Furman secured the women’s honor for the third-straight season as current Epson Tour golfer Natalie Srinivasan earned the award in 2019-20 and professional Adidas runner Gabbi Jennings captured the honor last season. Morgan becomes the 11th Paladin winner on the women’s side and the third Paladin women’s golfer to be honored, joining Srinivasan and Caroline Peek, who won the award in 1994-95.
Ponder is the ninth Furman winner on the men’s side and the league’s first men’s cross country/track selection to capture the award. He shares this year’s honor with Chattanooga football player Cole Strange. Ten athletes who played football and also ran track, including the Paladins’ Stanford Jennings in 1983-84 and Rock Hurst in 1984-85, have claimed the honor, but none solely for their running accomplishments.
The awards sweep is the first in program history. All told, Furman has produced 20 SoCon Athletes of the Year for the men’s and women’s programs combined.
A junior from Spartanburg, S.C., Morgan, who was voted the 2021-22l Edna Hartness Furman Female Athlete of the Year, earned a WGCA All-America second team citation after finishing ninth at the NCAA Championships. She qualified for the national championship after firing a final-round 67, the sixth-best women’s collegiate round at Karsten Creek, to finish fifth at the NCAA Stillwater Regional and advance in the top individual spot at the regional. The 2022 Southern Conference Player of the Year, she led the league with a 72.25 stroke average over 36 rounds this season, and concluded the season ranked 16th nationally, the highest ranking among SoCon players.
A two-time All-SoCon selection, Morgan, who led the Paladins to the SoCon Championship and the Lady Paladin Invitational title, tallied six top-5 finishes and nine top-10 finishes in 12 events in 2021-22. She won individual medalist honors at the Lady Paladin Invitational, establishing a new tournament record at 13-under par, and also claimed individual medalist honors at the UNF Collegiate. Later in the spring, she finished in a tie for fifth at the Valspar Augusta Invitational and the Clemson Invitational. Morgan tied for 21st at the 2022 Augusta National Women’s Amateur, qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open, and competed on the U.S. Team in the Arnold Palmer Cup.
Morgan, who holds a 3.5 GPA in politics and international affairs, was selected to the WGCA All-America Scholar Team, the SoCon Academic All-Conference Team, the SoCon Academic Honor Roll, and the Furman Dean’s List. She was inducted into the Lambda Pi Eta honor society for communications studies and garnered the 2022 SoCon Women’s Golf Pinnacle Award, which is given to the athlete with highest GPA on championship-winning team. She is a member of Furman’s Kappa Delta sorority, where she works with local Girl Scout troops and helped raise money for Greenville’s Julie Valentine Center, a nonprofit organization that provides services to sexual assault and child abuse survivors.
Ponder, a senior from Winston-Salem, N.C., was honored as the Furman Male Athlete of the Year for the second-consecutive year. He earned an All-America citation in the 3,000m for indoor track for the second-straight season after finishing 11th with a time of 8:03.99 at the NCAA Championships, where the top eight finishers were separated by less than a second. Ponder, who was one of only 16 athletes nationwide to qualify for the event, entered the national championship ranked 14th with a time of 7:45.56, a career best which he posted at the JDK DMR Invitational. He holds four career sub-4:00 mile marks, including a 3:59.75 which he posted to win the 2022 SoCon title. Ponder also competed as a member of the 2022 Paladin DMR team which took silver at the SoCon Indoor Championship with a time of 9:59.00.
The 2021 SoCon Cross Country Men’s Runner of the Year, Ponder won the SoCon individual race with a time of 24:40.0, leading the Paladins to their ninth-straight SoCon title. An All-SoCon first team selection in both cross country and indoor track, he finished ninth at the NCAA Southeast Region meet to earn All-Southeast Region accolades and went on to compete at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Ponder, who won the Furman Invitational individual title, led the Paladins to the Notre Dame Cross Country team title. He was a honored as the SoCon Cross Country Runner of the Month for October and November and won four-consecutive SoCon Indoor Track Athlete of the Week awards.
An economics major with a 3.40 cumulative GPA, Ponder was selected to the SoCon Academic Honor Roll, SoCon Academic All-Conference Team, USTFCCCA All-Academic Team, and the Furman Dean’s List. A two-time SoCon Student-Athlete of the Week honoree in 2021-22, he volunteers with Greenville Children’s Hospital and Habitat for Humanity. He organized various community service initiatives for the Paladins with the children’s hospital, including a toy drive through the Valiant Player organization, and is a member of the Furman Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
The Athlete of the Year Awards are selected annually by the Southern Conference athletics directors and a media member representing each conference school. The awards recognize athletic achievement, academic performance, and civic involvement. Prior to 1990-91, the awards were selected solely by members of the Southern Conference Sports Media Association.