Nebraska seniors Kelly Hunter and Annika Albrecht were voted as two of the seven finalists for the Amateur Athletic Union James E. Sullivan Award, presented annually to the most outstanding amateur athlete in the country.
Members of the AAU created the award in 1930 to recognize contributions and achievements from non-professional athletes across the Unites States. Hunter and Albrecht advanced to the final seven from a group of 28 semifinalists after a week of online fan voting.
The other finalists are North Carolina basketball player Joel Berry II, distance runner Erin Finn, para-equestrian rider Angela Peavy, figure skaters Maia and Alex Shibutani and Ohio State wrestler Kyle Snyder. The finalists will travel to New York City for the award ceremony on April 17 at the New York Athletic Club.
Voting for the finalists opened on Friday and runs through Thursday. Fans can vote on Twitter with the hashtags #Hunter4Sullivan and #Albrecht4Sullivan or online on the AAU Sullivan website (Hunter here, Albrecht here).
Both Hunter and Albrecht were members of two National Championship teams, three National Semifinalist squads and back-to-back Big Ten title teams during their indoor volleyball careers at Nebraska.
Hunter, a Papillion-La Vista South product and Nebraska's starting setter for the last three years, finished her career second in program history in assists with 4,125. The Huskers went 16-1 in the NCAA Tournament with Hunter as the starting setter, the most postseason wins and highest winning percentage for a starting setter in program history. She was named a first-team All-American and the Big Ten Setter of the Year as a senior along with several other national, district and conference honors.
“It’s such an honor to be chosen as one of the finalists for this award, and I’m thrilled to be able to go to New York and share this amazing experience with Anni and some of the best amateur athletes in the country,” Hunter said in a release. “Obviously we wouldn’t have made it this far without the voting support from all the Husker fans all over the country, so we owe them a huge thank you for supporting us and making this opportunity possible.”
Albrecht, a native of North Aurora, Illinois, spent her first three seasons primarily as a defensive specialist before emerging as a dynamic outside hitter as a senior. She was named a second-team All-American and an All-Big Ten player as a senior after averaging 3.02 kills and 2.74 digs oer set. She finished her career sixth in school history in service aces with 139.
“I’m so excited to be selected as one of the finalists for the AAU Sullivan Award,” Albrecht said. “When Kelly and I were named semifinalists, I thought that was really cool. And then to be voted one of the finalists along with her, that’s just even more awesome and an unbelievable honor. I want to thank everyone who voted for us, and we will represent Husker Nation well in New York.”
Both players are currently competing with the beach volleyball team at Nebraska. The Huskers wrap up competition on Friday with three matches in Irvine, California.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.