Lauren Carlini, four-time All-American volleyball player from University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been named the 2017 AAU Sullivan Award winner during a ceremony in New York City.
“First off, I’m in complete shock. I definitely was not expecting to win it. And I am honored to be on this list of amazing athletes who won this award previously,” Carlini said. “It gives me a chill thinking about it.” She is the first volleyball player to ever receive the honor.
Carlini was one of seven finalists for the award, which included six gold medal Olympians. She’s the only finalists who has not been to the world’s biggest athletic stage, but she says she has her eye on Tokyo.
“I want to have a gold medal around my neck just like them. I am humbled and I’m honored to have won this AAU Sullivan Award,” Carlini said after the ceremony, which was held at the New York Athletic Club.
Carlini attributed much of her success in volleyball to the Amateur Athletic Union, saying she was on club teams for much of her life growing up through the sport.
The Badger ranks 1st in Wisconsin history with 74 career double-doubles and second in career assists with 5,599.
The Sullivan Award, which was first given in 1930, is known as “The Oscar” of sports trophies and is older than the Heisman. It honors amateur athletes in the United States. The winner is selected through two rounds of public voting, as well as voting from former winners and the AAU Board of Directors.
The inaugural Gussie Crawford award was also given to Jesse Owens posthumously, for his lasting contributions to amateur sports. His granddaughter, Gina Hempill-Strachan accepted the award on the family’s behalf.
The other six finalists included water polo goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson, rifle shooter Ginny Thrasher, freestyle wrestler Kyle Snyder, judoka Kayla Harrison, gymnast Laurie Hernandez and gymnast Aly Raisman.
The finalist enjoyed some sightseeing of NYC, traveling to the Empire State Building Tuesday morning.
The final round of voting for the AAU Sullivan Award is now open! You can vote by clicking here. Since 1930, the prestigious award has been given to the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States, and some of the biggest names in sports have been honored with the award.
Past winners include Carl Lewis, Peyton Manning, Bill Walton, Michelle Kwan, Michael Phelps, Ezekiel Elliot, Tim Tebow, Shawn Johnson, Missy Franklin, and J.J. Redick.
The final round of voting will close on March 22, so make sure to get your votes in quickly! You can vote once every 24 hours here. And now, let’s meet the finalists! The nominees are some of the best athletes in the world, many with gold medals and national titles to their names.
Ashleigh Johnson, Water Polo
As a two-time semi-finalist, Johnson is no stranger to the AAU Sullivan Award, and for good reason. She’s already one of the best water polo players in the world, with a stacked résumé that includes a gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Johnson also took home Top Goalkeeper honors in Rio and was named 2016 Water Polo Player of the Year by Swimming World magazine and 2016 Women’s Sports Foundation Sports Woman of the Year.
Lauren Carlini, Volleyball
Carlini had one of the most prolific careers in Big 10 volleyball history at Wisconsin. She took home All-Big Ten honors all four years, the first in program history to do so. She also ranks first in Wisconsin history with 74 career double-doubles and second in career assists with 5,599. She was recognized with All-American honors from the American Volleyball Coaches Association three straight seasons. Perhaps most impressive, Carlini helped Team USA bring home a bronze medal from the 2016 Pan American Cup.
Ginny Thrasher, Olympic-Style Rifle Shooting
Thrasher’s most recent claim to fame: winning the U.S.’s very first gold medal at the 2016 Olympic games. Winning Olympic gold is impressive enough, but even more impressive at age 19. Not only did Thrasher bring home the gold, she did it convincingly. In the 10m air rifle competition, she defeated her opponent by a full point, which is considered a wide margin in a sport where precision is key. In addition to her gold medal, Thrasher also has a pair of NCAA Championships from her freshman season at West Virginia University.
Kyle Snyder, Freestyle Wrestling
Snyder is one of the biggest names in wrestling today. The 20-year-old has already put his stamp on the record books as the youngest gold medalist in U.S. wrestling history. He took home Olympic Gold in Rio and also owns an NCAA Championship. The Ohio State product has a Freestyle World Cup championship on his résumé, as well.
Kayla Harrison, Judo
Harrison isn’t just one of the best in the world. She is the best in the world. She finished 2016 ranked No. 1 in the world in her weight class after winning her second gold medal. Harrison is the first American judoka to ever win an Olympic gold medal, and she successfully defended her title with another gold medal in Rio last year.
Laurie Hernandez, Gymnastics
Hernandez was a member of the Team USA gynamistic team that took the nation by storm at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. In addition to helping Team USA bring home a gold medal in the team event, Hernandez’s score of 15.333 on the balance beam earned her a silver medal for her individual performance.
Aly Raisman, Gymnastics
As the captain of both the 2012 and 2016 USA gymnastics teams, Raisman is one of the most decorated U.S. gymnasts in history. She is the first U.S. gynmast to win back-to-back medals in the floor event. The 2016 Olympics cemented her legacy, bringing her medal total to three golds and six career Olympic medals, the second most in U.S. gymnastics history.