Megan Cunningham, a senior cross country and track & field performer from the University of Missouri, is named the Class of 2018 Honda Inspiration Award winner as announced by Chris Voelz, of The Collegiate Women Sports Awards presented by Honda (CWSA).
Cunningham’s inspiring story will be highlighted during the CBS Sports Network telecast of Defying the Odds: The 2018 Honda Inspiration Award which will air on Tuesday, June 19, at 7:00 p.m. ET. The program will highlight the adversities of the three Honda Award Inspiration finalists including Kara Eck (Track & Field) from Trine University and Christine Peng-Peng Lee (Gymnastics) of UCLA.
For the past 29 years, the Honda Inspiration Award has been given to a deserving female student-athlete in Division I, II or III who has experienced extraordinary physical and/or emotional adversity, injury and/or illness, or experienced extraordinary personal sacrifice during her college enrollment as a student-athlete and yet returns to athletic success. Cunningham will be presented with the honor during a live broadcast on CBS Sports Network on Monday, June 25, at 9:00 p.m. ET, 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.
"I am honored to be named the recipient of the Honda Inspiration Award," Cunningham said. "When my life was suddenly changed in July, 2015, I never expected to be in the position I am in today. My recovery both on the track and simply in my daily life would not have been possible without the support of my family, Mizzou, and the family friends who have stood by our side since day one. I am forever thankful for the great relationships and support I have.”
At the end of her sophomore season, Cunningham and her family were involved in a serious car accident that sent her on her own unique course. The accident resulted in two cracks and shattering in her skull causing brain bleeding and fractures to her spine. She missed an entire year of competition and had to restructure her academic schedule to accommodate for her physical state. Her doctor indicated it may take up to five years before she overcomes the resulting migraines, blackouts, dizziness and vertigo.
Despite these adversities, she competed for an SEC Championship and captured the 2018 SEC Indoor 5000m event. She went on to record the fourth fastest 5000m run in program history. In addition, she is a USA Track and Field All-Academic Honoree and has recently been accepted into medical school.
“It is said one can’t measure the heart of an athlete and indeed that is true as we celebrate the tenacity and bravery of Megan Cunningham as the 2018 Honda Inspiration Award winner,” said CWSA Executive Director Chris Voelz. “It is a heartfelt, bittersweet story that will inspire all. As I congratulate Megan I also congratulate Megan’s family and the University of Missouri for the role they played in her return to competition.”
“Since 1988, The Collegiate Women Sports Awards has presented the Honda Inspiration Award to a woman who faced adversity and yet went back to contribute to her team,” said Jean Lenti Ponsetto, Chair of the CWSA Board of Directors. “All of our 2018 nominees are deserving of our respect and admiration as their courage and determination is amazing. Megan’s story is incredibly inspiring and our CWSA audience will see and hear why she is the 2018 Honda Inspiration Award winner."
The CWSA, in its 42nd 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 $3.3 million in institutional grants to the universities of the award winners and nominees to support women’s athletics programs at the institutions.