AAU Sullivan Award – Who is the top amateur athlete?

Story originally posted at www.usatoday.com

Ballots for the 77th AAU Sullivan Award are being sent this week to AAU officials, U.S. Olympic Committee members, college sports information directors and others. Fans, too, can join in the voting for the nation’s top amateur athlete online. The total fan votes count one-third toward the final tally. Voting ends March 31. The winner for athletic excellence in 2006 will be announced April 11.

>> Vote! Help decide who wins the 77th AAU Sullivan Award.

The finalists:

Brady Quinn, football

He led Notre Dame (10-3) to the No. 19 ranking in the final USA TODAY Coaches’ Poll. Won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, presented to the top senior quarterback in the nation. Set school season record with 37 touchdown passes.

Joey Cheek, speedskating

A North Carolina native, he was a two-time medalist in Torino, where he won silver in the 1,000 meters and gold in the men’s 500. His 500 two-run time total made Cheek the only competitor to break the 35-second mark in each run. He was also the 2006 world sprint champion.

Sasha Cohen, figure skating

A back injury kept her from competing in two seasons, but Cohen placed fourth in her first major international championship in the 2002 Salt Lake Games. That set the stage for her emergence last year. By winning her first national title in 2006, she earned her ticket to the Torino Games, where she won silver.

Troy Dumais, diving

The former University of Texas All-American was named USA Diving athlete of the year in 2006. Early that year he partnered to win the 3-meter synchronized diving title in the 2006 national championships in Indianapolis. He also won bronze in the 3-meter springboard event in the FINA World Cup in July.

Chris Leak, football

The senior quarterback led Florida to a 13-1 record and the school’s second national title. Was 25-for-36 for 213 yards and one touchdown in the 41-14 title-game win against then-No. 1 Ohio State. Set the school career record with 11,213 passing yards. The North Carolina native threw a TD pass in all but two of his 33 starts.

Jessica Long, paralympian swimming

At age 15, Long has 18 world record-breaking performances and holds the record in 12 events for paralympic swimming. Long, whose legs were amputated below the knee, learned to swim in her grandparents’ pool and has won at least three medals in every Paralympic Games since 2004. In 2006, Long won nine gold medals and set five world records at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Swimming World Championships in Durban, South Africa. She was named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s 2006 Paralympian of the Year.

Joakim Noah, basketball

The junior forward-center for Florida was MVP for the 2006 Final Four as the Gators won the NCAA title. The son of former tennis great Yannick Noah, Joakim also was MVP of the Minneapolis Regional.

Apolo Ohno, speedskating

A member of the U.S. Elite short-track team, Ohno holds U.S. records at 500, 1,500 and 3,000 meters. In the 2006 Olympics he earned gold in the 500 and bronze in the 1,000 and 5,000 relay.

Candace Parker, women’s basketball

The Tennessee sophomore forward is known for being the first women to dunk in an NCAA tournament game and twice in a college game. As a redshirt freshman in 2006, she was also the only Lady Vol to start all 36 games and led the team in scoring (17.3 a game) and rebounding (8.3). She hit the winning shot in the Southeastern Conference tournament championship game against LSU and was the tournament MVP.

Michael Phelps, swimming

An eight-time Olympic medalist, the Maryland native spent summer 2006 training for the 2008 Games in Beijing and breaking records. During the U.S. national championships, he earned five titles to raise his career total to 32. At the Pan Pacific Championships in August, he won six medals (five golds) while setting world records in the 200-meter individual medley, 200 butterfly and 4×100 freestyle relay.

Angela Ruggiero, ice hockey

Ruggiero is considered the top defenseman in the world. She represented the U.S. women’s team in the 2006 Winter Games, where her team won a bronze medal. In May of that year, she was selected from 12 fellow Olympians to be on the TV show The Apprentice 6.

Troy Smith, football

The Ohio State standout quarterback won the 2006 Heisman Trophy and led the Buckeyes to an undefeated regular season before falling 41-14 to Florida in the Bowl Championship Series title game.

Hannah Teter, snowboarding

Teter comes from a family in which her two older brothers, Abe and Elijah, are professional riders. In only four years as a competitor, Teter has won every major halfpipe championship in the world with the exception of the U.S. Open. In 2006, Teter solidified her position as one of the world’s best by winning the women’s halfpipe gold in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. She added a silver in halfpipe in the 2006 Gravity Games. Teter was ranked second in the 2006 Chevy Trucks Grand Prix Olympic qualifying series behind Gretchen Bleiler, who took silver in Torino. Teter was named 2006 U.S. Olympic Committee sportswoman of the year.

Joe Warren, wrestling

In 2006, Warren became the fifth American to win a world championship in Greco-Roman wrestling. The former University of Michigan All-American won the world gold medal at 132 pounds.

Bill Zadick, wrestling

Bill Zadick, along with younger brother Mike, became the first set of brothers to qualify for the USA’s World Team in 11 years in 2006. Bill, a former Iowa Hawkeye, won the 2006 world championship in freestyle (1-2, 3-0, 1-0) at 145.5 pounds, knocking off world bronze medalist Otari Tushishvili.

Contributing: Courtney Eiland, Kristi Funderburk

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