Katie Ledecky Nominated For Best College Athlete ESPY

American swimmer Katie Ledecky has been nominated for an ESPY award for Best College Athlete after another record-setting season in the NCAA in 2017-2018. From 2002 through 2017, the award was given as two separate honors: one for Best Male College Athlete and one for Best Female College Athlete, but this year, ESPN has combined the two into the same category with two male and two female nominees.

Ledecky, who turned pro after her redshirt-sophomore season at Stanford last year, is one of 4 nominees for the awards.

2018 ESPY Award Nominees – Best College Athlete

  • Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma Football – 2017 Heisman Award winner with 3rd-highest percentage in Heisman history; led Oklahoma to its third-straight Big 12 Championship; Ranked 2nd in the NCAA FBS with 4,627 passing yards in 2017; led NCAA FBS with a 198.9 passer rating
  • Jalen Brunson, Villanova Basketball – Consensus First-Team All-American, won National Player of the Year awards from the Associated Press; Won Naismith College Player of the Year, John R. Wooden Award, NABC Player of the Year, CBS Sports National Player of the Year, Sporting News PLayer of the Year, Bob Cousy Award; Second-Team Academic All-America selection; helped Villanova win 2nd NCAA championship in 3 seasons; #33 pick in the NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks
  • Katie Ledecky, Stanford Swimming – Two-time U.S. Olympian, won 3 NCAA Championships as a sophomore and 4 All-America awards, NCAA Champion in the 500 free, 1650 free, and runner-up in 400 IM behind teammate Ella Eastin; won Pac-12 titles in 400 IM (American Record), 200 free; CoSIDA At-Large Academic All-American of the Year; Finished career with 15 NCAA Record-setting swims
  • A’ja Wilson, South Carolina Basketball – Swept the National Player of the Year awards; won a record 3rd-straight SEC Player of the Year Award; earned 3rd-straight Consensus All-American award; Broke South Carolina school record for scoring; #1 pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft by the Las Vegas Aces

The ESPY Awards, which stand for Excellence in Sports Yearly, is ESPN‘s annual awards program. The majority of the awards, including the one that Ledecky was nominated for, are decided in part by an online fan vote. Winners will be announced during the annual awards show on July 18th.

Last year, Ledecky was one of 4 nominees for Best Female Athlete as a result of her performance at the 2016 Olympic Games. Michael Phelps was also nominated last year for Best Male Athlete. Phelps was named the Best Male Athlete ESPY Award in 2009, while Amy Van Dyken is the only female swimmer to win Best Female Athlete – in 1997 (after the U.S.-hosted 1996 Olympic Games).

Ledecky is the only swimmer nominee for a 2018 ESPY. She’s also the only swimmer nominated for a 2018 Nickelodeon Kids Choice Sports Award.

Other Swimmers Who Have Won ESPY Awards:

  • Missy Franklin won an ESPY for Best Female College Athlete in 2015. Katinka Hosszu, Natalie Coughlin, Caitlin Leverenz, Dana Vollmer, Kara Lynn Joyce, Tara Kirk, and Natalie Coughlin (twice) have also been nominated for that award.
  • No male swimmer has ever been nominated for Best Male College Athlete (first awarded in 2002).
  • Dara Torres won for Best Comeback in 2009 after she qualified for the U.S. team at the 2008 Summer Olympics at 41-years old ,where she won 3 silver medals.
  • Erin Popovich, Jessica LongErin Popovich again, Mallory WeggemannJessica Long two more times, and most recently Rebecca Meyers in 2015 and 2017 have all won Best Female Athlete with a Disability awards. Swimmers have won 8 of the 12 awards given in this category. Triathlon has won 2, and no other sport has won more than once.
  • Swimmers have been nominated for Best Male Athlete with a Disability 5 times, but have never won. That includes two-straight nominations for Brad Snyder in 2016 and 2017.
  • The U.S. Men’s 400 free relay at the 2008 Summer Olympics won for Best Moment in 2009 (the “Lezak” relay).
  • Phelps won “Best Record-Breaking Performance” three times – in 2009 for his 8 gold medals in Beijing; in 2013 for becoming the most decorated modern Olympian ever in London; and in 2017 for extending that record in Rio.

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Right Dude Here

It’s funny because she makes a very reasonable and honest case for an award for most dominant athlete, any level, any sport.


It’s probably going to Brunson


I think they’d give it to baker Mayfield over Brunson. Ledecky deserves it though


Brunson was picked in the 2nd round of the NBA draft and was the fourth guy picked from his own college team in the NBA draft, so how he even scored a nomination is somewhat questionable. Mayfield had to go to two colleges, and still didn’t really get things right, and no Natty Championship. Ledecky just straight-up better in her sport than any of the others are in their sports, but whatever.


Brunson was the best player on his college team, and they steam rolled their way to a title this year. The nba draft weights potential over production and his size, athleticism, and age limit his potential (especially defensively) in the nba. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t the best player in college basketball, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins it. Baker Mayfield was by far the best quarterback in college football this year and led his team to the final 4. They were a touchdown away from playing for a national championship. He went to 2 colleges but was productive at both. Honestly, I think the most dominant collegiate swimmer this past year was dressel. He won all 3 events… Read more »


What probably hurt Dressel a lot were two things–the fact that FL did not win anything as a team like a National or Conf championship. Second, his wholesale admission at NCAAs on Swimswam post-race video that he had fueled himself up with PreWorkout supplement probably did not help his chances. That could have made nominators as jittery as Caeleb said he was when he got up on the blocks at NCAAs. Mayfield’s poor off-field behavior (and actually on-field behavior too) won’t woo voters either.


What more would Caeleb Dressel have to do to get his own nomination? His NCAA season was as good as it could get, and he won 7 golds at World Championships over the summer.

I’m not trying to take away from Katie Ledecky’s nomination. It was totally deserved.


I know it doesn’t have direct association with the college related awards but still: a couple word records and individual Olympic medals will help a lot his popularity outside the world of swimming.


As noted by Kornheiser and Wilbon on ESPN’s own PTI show, it’s actually fairly ill-considered by ESPN to nominate Katie Ledecky–who won the 2017 AP Female Athlete of the Year over Serena Williams and is the only woman ever to win USOC Athlete of the Year three times–as “Best College Athlete”. And the description they provide of her is incomplete and non-sensical–she has broken 14 WRs (and had 11 ARs in college swimming alone), and helped lead Stanford to two straight Pac-12 titles (Swimmer of meet two straight years) and two straight National Titles. Details, details. Plus, they left out all of her Swammy Awards!


Unfortunately for Caeleb Dressel, with the Ryan Lochte Rio debacle and Florida connection, I think the powers- that-be might be a little squeamish about throwing a huge spotlight on Caeleb, what with the tattoos and the braces he had on his teeth at age 21, and his supplement talk. Surprising that he doesn’t have a suit deal yet as a pro, could be a reflection of this squamishness on the part of the commercial establishment.

Jim C

If we assume both men’s and women’s basketball get one nomination each, and so does men’s football, there is only room for one more nomination which of necessity is that of a woman.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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