Riley Gaines Named Recipient of Prestigious Sullivan Award
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Whether in the pool, the classroom or the community, Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines knows how to make a lasting impact, and the senior was once again honored for her accomplishments as one of three recipients of the prestigious Sullivan Award.
Established by the New York Southern Society in 1925 and named for its first president, Algernon Sydney Sullivan, the award recognizes those “who exhibit Sullivan’s ideals of heart, mind and conduct as evince a spirit of love for and helpfulness to other men and women.” After the society closed, the award has lived on through the Sullivan Foundation and is given annually at several southern universities. At UK, the Sullivan Award is bestowed each year on one graduating senior woman, one graduating senior man and one citizen who has a connection to the university.
Gaines is the fourth Kentucky student-athlete to win this award in the last decade, joining Josh Nadzam (2012, men’s track and field), Grace Trimble (2015, women’s tennis) and Max Godby (2015, football).
The Gallatin, Tennessee native has a remarkable track record of community service, having been involved in programs such as God’s Pantry, Special Olympics of Kentucky, Give 10 (R.E.A.L. Read), the Shriner’s Hospital, Kentucky United Telethon and Amachi. She was inducted into the 2022 Frank G. Ham Society of Character which honors student-athletes who show an extraordinary commitment to academic excellence, athletic participation, personal development, career preparation and serving as a role model.
Also a stud in the classroom, Gaines – who has maintained a 3.876 cumulative grade-point average as a health sciences major – has earned a spot on the Dean’s List seven times and the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll four times. She has also landed on the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll the past three years and is a three-time College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America Scholar All-America First Team selection.
More recently, she was named the SEC Women’s Swimming and Diving Scholar-Athlete of the Year, becoming the fourth Wildcat to win the award in program history. It also marked the fourth time in the last eight years a member of the UK women’s team has won it.
Her accomplishments in the pool are just as impressive as they are out of the water. A two-time team captain, Gaines will graduate in May as one of the most decorated swimmers in program history. She owns the school record in three individual and four relay events, is an Olympic Trials qualifier and was instrumental in UK winning its first-ever SEC title in 2021. She has also amassed 12 All-America honors throughout her four-year career in the blue and white.
Gaines tied for fifth in the 200 free at the 2022 NCAA Championships, marking the highest individual finish of her career at the national meet while also garnering honorable mention recognition in the 200 fly, 400 medley relay and 800 free relay. She found herself on the All-SEC First Team for the second season in a row after bringing home two gold, one silver and two bronze medals at this year’s conference meet. Gaines’ performances in all three of her individual races at the SEC Championships set new program standards, while her winning time of 1:51.51 in the 200 fly was a meet and conference record and moved her up to the 16th-fastest swim in U.S. history.
With Gaines receiving the honor as the graduating senior woman, this year’s Sullivan Award winners also include Dean Farmer as the graduating senior man and James “Jim” Richardson as the citizen award recipient. They will be recognized at a ceremony on campus next week.