Lauren Carlini Becomes First-Ever Volleyballer To Win Sullivan Award

University of Wisconsin senior setter Lauren Carlini became the first volleyball player in history to win the prestigious AAU James E. Sullivan Award on Tuesday evening.

Carlini was one of 7 finalists that traveled to New York City this week for the final announcement. 2017 marks the 87th year of the award, which is given annually to the top American amateur athlete in the United States.

Volleyball is the 19th sport (depending on how you delineate the different running and field events) to have an athlete recognized with the award.

Carlini is a 4-time AVCA All-American, including 3 First-Team honors. She was named the 2014 Big Ten Conference Player of the year and is a two-time Big Ten Conference Setter of the Year.

As a senior, she ranked 3rd nationally (and 1st in the Big Ten) with 11.81 assists per set and ended her career with 5,599 assists – second in program history. She ranks first in program history with 74 double doubles in her career. With Carlini at setter, the Badgers went to four consecutive Elite Eight appearances in the NCAA tournament. Carlini is just the second Wisconsin Badger, after former football running back Ron Dayne, to be named a finalist for the award.

Only one aquatic athlete was nominated for this year’s award: Princeton water polo goalie Ashleigh Johnson. Johnson led Team USA to a gold medal at he 2016 Olympics and was named the top goalkeeper of the tournament. No water polo player has ever won the award, but 12 swimmers and 3 divers have. Most recently, in 2012, the award went to Missy Franklin.
Katie Ledecky was not named even a semi-finalist for the award, in spite of winning 4 gold and 1 silver medal in Rio as the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Swim team.


  • Ashleigh Johnson, Water Polo – led Team USA to a gold medal at the Olympics in Rio and was named Top Goalkeeper of the tournament
  • Lauren Carlini, Volleyball – 4-time All-American at Wisconsin, ranked 3rd nationally in 2016 in assists-per-set
  • Ginny Thrasher, Rifle – The 2016 NCAA champion at West Virginia earned the United States’ first gold medal at the 2016 Olympics winning the 10m air rifle
  • Kyle Snyder, Freestyle Wrestling – The Ohio State undergrad became the United States’ youngest Olympic wrestling gold medalist in Rio, and also won the NCAA title in the 285 lb. weight class, upending the two-time defending champion Nick Gwiazdowski.
  • Kayla Harrison, Judo – won her 2nd Olympic gold medal in 2016 and finished #1 in the world in the -78kg weight class.
  • Laurie Hernandez, Gymnastics – A member of the Final Five, She was second at the U.S. Olympic Trials in the all-around. She won silver in the balance beam in Rio and gold as part of the team competition.
  • Aly Raisman, Gymnastics – Captain of the 2012 and 2016 Olympic gymnastics teams, Raisman won a gold and 2 silvers in Rio. That made her the most decorated U.S. gymnast in history.


1930 Bobby Jones Golf
1931 Bernard Berlinger Decathlon
1932 James Bausch Decathlon
1933 Glenn Cunningham Running (middle distance)
1934 William Bonthron Running (middle distance)
1935 W. Lawson Little, Jr. Golf
1936 Glenn Morris Decathlon
1937 Don Budge Tennis
1938 Don Lash Running (long distance)
1939 Joe Burk Rowing
1940 J. Gregory Rice Track and field
1941 T. Leslie MacMitchell Track and field
1942 Cornelius Warmerdam Pole vault
1943 Gilbert R. Dodds Running (middle distance)
1944 Ann Curtis Swimming
1945 Doc Blanchard Football
1946 Arnold Tucker Football
1947 John B. Kelly, Jr. Rowing
1948 Bob Mathias Decathlon
1949 Dick Button Figure skating
1950 Fred Wilt Running (long distance)
1951 Bob Richards Pole vault, decathlon
1952 Horace Ashenfelter Running (long distance)
1953 Sammy Lee Diving
1954 Mal Whitfield Running (middle distance)
1955 Harrison Dillard Running (sprint)
1956 Pat McCormick Diving
1957 Bobby Morrow Running (sprint)
1958 Glenn “Jeep” Davis Running (sprint)
1959 Parry O’Brien Shot put, discus
1960 Rafer Johnson Decathlon
1961 Wilma Rudolph Running (sprint)
1962 Jim Beatty Track and field
1963 John Pennel Pole vault
1964 Don Schollander Swimming
1965 Bill Bradley Basketball
1966 Jim Ryun Running (middle distance)
1967 Randy Matson Shot put, discus
1968 Debbie Meyer Swimming
1969 Bill Toomey Decathlon
1970 John Kinsella Swimming
1971 Mark Spitz Swimming
1972 Frank Shorter Running (long distance)
1973 Bill Walton Basketball
1974 Rick Wohlhuter Running (middle distance)
1975 Tim Shaw Swimming
1976 Bruce Jenner [a] Decathlon
1977 John Naber Swimming
1978 Tracy Caulkins Swimming
1979 Kurt Thomas Gymnastics
1980 Eric Heiden Speed skating
1981 Carl Lewis Running (sprint), long jump
1982 Mary Decker Running (middle and long distance)
1983 Edwin Moses Running (sprint)
1984 Greg Louganis Diving
1985 Joan Benoit Running (long distance)
1986 Jackie Joyner-Kersee Running (sprint)
1987 Jim Abbott Baseball
1988 Florence Griffith-Joyner Running (sprint)
1989 Janet Evans Swimming
1990 John Smith Wrestling
1991 Mike Powell Long jump
1992 Bonnie Blair Speed skating
1993 Charlie Ward Basketball, football
1994 Dan Jansen Speed skating
1995 Bruce Baumgartner Wrestling
1996 Michael Johnson Running (sprint)
1997 Peyton Manning Football
1998 Chamique Holdsclaw Basketball
1999 Coco Miller and Kelly Miller Basketball
2000 Rulon Gardner Wrestling
2001 Michelle Kwan Figure skating
2002 Sarah Hughes Figure skating
2003 Michael Phelps Swimming
2004 Paul Hamm Gymnastics
2005 J. J. Redick Basketball
2006 Jessica Long Swimming
2007 Tim Tebow Football
2008 Shawn Johnson Gymnastics
2009 Amy Palmiero-Winters Running (ultra marathon)
2010 Evan Lysacek Figure Skating
2011 Andrew Rodriguez Football
2012 Missy Franklin Swimming
2013 John Urschel Football
2014 Ezekiel Elliott Football
2015 Keenan Reynolds and Breanna Stewart Football and basketball (respectively)
2016 Lauren Carlini Volleyball

In This Story

Leave a Reply

12 Comment threads
8 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
14 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted



I think it is interesting to read the finalists . No swimmers & 2 gymnasts .


Swimswam’s point was here:
“Katie Ledecky was not named even a semi-finalist for the award, in spite of winning 4 gold and 1 silver medal in Rio as the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Swim team.”
I would add 2 WRs at Rio, 3 across the whole year in this description.

bobo gigi

No Biles and Ledecky in the nominees? 🙄


Biles is pro…but her teammate Raisman and Hernandez are pro too, they made the list.
So, what do I know… 🙂


Ledecky, Manuel, Murphy should be nominated, a least made the semi-final list.
They better give this award to Ledecky before she turns pro.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of 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, …

Read More »

Want to take your swimfandom to the next level?

Subscribe to SwimSwam Magazine!