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Five Blue Devils Earn Strength & Conditioning Honors
Courtesy: Duke Sports Information
Release: 05/12/2011
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Photo Courtesy: Lance King
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DURHAM, N.C. - The Duke University strength and conditioning staff has selected five student-athletes for their dedication to fitness and weight training. Sophomore Jeff Kremer, juniors Becca Ward and Abby Johnston, redshirt sophomore Diego Bencomo and freshman Kaitlyn Kerr all were honored for their outstanding commitment to excellence in the weight room.

Kremer, Ward, Johnston and Bencomo were named the 2010-2011 Duke University Olympic Sports Strength & Conditioning Athletes of the Year for their commitment to excellence, dedication to hard work, and consistent desire to improve themselves and their teams. Kerr also was honored with the LiveStrong Award for her tireless efforts in overcoming adversity, her unwavering optimism and enthusiasm for training and her dedication to returning to athletic excellence on the field.

"Perhaps the most fitting thing I can say about Jeff, Becca, Diego, Abby, and Kaitlyn is that they individually and collectively represent the ideals we strive for in strength and conditioning," Head Olympic Sports Strength & Conditioning Coordinator Dan Perlmutter said. "They are tireless workers; they persevere through every challenge; they are constantly hungry to get better, to push themselves harder than they did the day before, to identify weaknesses and turn them into strengths. They create and raise the standards for their teams and they are the reason we love what we do; the reason why we strive to be the best every time we step through the door."

A catcher for the Blue Devils baseball squad, Kremer has emerged as one of the top hitters in the ACC in his second season, ranking among the top 10 in the league in batting average, on base percentage and hits. After hitting just .143 in 10 games as a freshman, Kremer broke out as a sophomore and currently leads Duke with a .355 batting average, 61 hits, 36 walks and a .470 on base percentage. He has multiple hits in a team-leading 19 games and has been just as good in conference play, batting .356 in ACC games.

"Jeff has worked tremendously hard in the weight room over the course of the year and this work has been the key to his terrific offensive season on the baseball diamond," baseball head coach Sean McNally said.  "He has provided a great example for our entire program of how building a strength and conditioning base is critically important to having success on the field.  We are indebted to Dan Perlmutter and his staff and thank them for their tireless work with Jeff and our entire program throughout the year."

Ward, a member of the fencing team, won her second NCAA Championship in 2011 to become the Duke's first two-time national champion. Also the 2009 NCAA Women's Saber Champion and the 2010 NCAA runner-up, Ward earned her third straight All-America citation in 2011 and went 66-3 to improve her career record to 191-6. Also a two-time ACC Academic Honor Roll selection, Ward helped the Duke sabers post a 22-1 record and the Duke women capture a 17-6 record as a team.

"Becca has truly been a leader in all aspects of our program, and the strength and conditioning portion is no exception," fencing head coach Alex Beguinet said. "In addition to working hard herself, she has pushed her teammates in the weight room and through team conditioning. It was Becca who suggested that we incorporate plyometrics into our training this year, and we have seen the benefits from implementing that into our program. This year, Becca really focused on conditioning as part of her competition prep, and it paid off."

A five-time ACC diving champion, Johnston made history in 2011 after capturing the first women's diving national title on the three-meter springboard with a final score of 409.35. Johnston has won the one and three-meter ACC titles the past two seasons and captured top honors on the one-meter board her freshman season. The Upper Arlington, Ohio native has earned four All-America awards during her career and has advanced to the NCAA Championships in each of her three seasons.

"It's funny that [Abby] was among four athletes to receive the strength and conditioning student-athlete of the year award, because her biggest challenge this week was really a physical one," diving head coach Drew Johansen said. "Her very strenuous collegiate season ended in March, and since then she's been in England and Mexico competing. Fort Lauderdale [at the AT&T Diving Grand Prix] has been the biggest physical challenge of her life and she won the gold in the women's three-meter synchronized competition because she was so fit. She was able to endure the competition and overcome fatigue from a very long season."

Bencomo, a member of the wrestling squad, advanced to the NCAA Championships this season after taking home runner-up honors at the ACC Championships. Bencomo surpassed expectations in the NCAA Championships, advancing to the quarterfinal round. He earned All-ACC recognition and led the Blue Devils with a 27-16 overall record at 184 pounds. In two seasons with Duke, the Phoenix native has compiled a 55-31 record.

"To me it is no surprise that [Diego's] hard work in the wrestling room as well as the strength conditioning complex hasn't gone unnoticed," wrestling head coach Clar Anderson said. "His outstanding efforts in the weight room really helped launch him to earning a bid to nationals and making it to the quarterfinals, which is just one match away from all-American status."

Kerr, a midfielder for the women's soccer team, helped guide Duke to an outstanding season. She garnered All-ACC Freshman Team honors despite having to battle back from a knee injury during her rookie season. Overall she played in 22 contests, starting eight of those and notched four goals and five assists for 13 points.

"We are very proud of Kaitlyn winning this award," women's soccer head coach Robbie Church said. "Kaitlyn has done a fantastic job during the offseason.  She has been limited on the activities that she could do, but whatever activities it was, whether it was in her rehab or in the weight room she has attacked them and really worked hard.  Kaitlyn has gone above what has been expected of her in all those activities.  I know it will pay great dividends to her in the fall when she comes back."