Michigan State junior goaltender Jeff Lerg, of Livonia, Mich., has been named one of five finalists for the prestigious James E. Sullivan Award. Lerg has been invited to the Sullivan Award Ceremony in New York, N.Y., on April 1 at the New York Athletic Club.
The AAU Sullivan Award honors the outstanding amateur athlete in the United States. It has been presented annually by the AAU since 1930 as a salute to founder and past president of the Amateur Athletic Union, and a pioneer in amateur sports, James E. Sullivan.
Based on the qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship, and the ideals of amateurism, the AAU Sullivan Award goes beyond athletic accomplishments to honor those who have shown strong moral character. AAU officials, U.S. Olympic Committee members and college sports information directors are among those who vote for the award.
Lerg, one of 10 finalists for the 2008 Hobey Baker Memorial Award, was named First-Team All-CCHA and also earned CCHA Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors. The finance major has maintained a 3.75 grade-point average while participating in community services initiatives. He backstopped the Spartans to the 2007 NCAA championship, earning Midwest Regional MVP honors and a spot on the Frozen Four All-Tournament Team.
No hockey player has ever won the Sullivan Award. The finalists are profiled below.
Tim Tebow, football
The Florida quarterback became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy after throwing for 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns last season. Tebow, 20, who grew up in Jacksonville, also won the Davey O’Brien and Maxwell awards. He’s the only player in NCAA history to rush and pass for at least 20 touchdowns in a season. His 55 touchdowns were the most in a season in school history. He also set the school single-season record for total offense with 3,970 yards as the Gators (9-4) finished No. 16 in the USA TODAY Coaches’ Poll. Tebow, who has done missionary work during his summers, has a 3.77 grade-point average as a major in family, youth and community sciences.
Jeff Lerg, ice hockey
Lerg, 21, set the Michigan State consecutive games played/started records (63) as a sophomore goalie. He made 29 saves as the Spartans beat Boston College 3-1 to win the NCAA hockey title. He also posted 29 saves in a 4-2 victory against Maine in the semifinals, shutting out the Black Bears in the final 56 minutes. He was named Michigan State’s most valuable player. The Spartans entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed and won their first national title in 21 years. Lerg, of Livonia, Mich., owns a 3.74 GPA as a finance major.
Philippa Raschker, track and field
Raschker, of Marietta, Ga., has loved track and field since her childhood in Germany. The 61-year-old competes as a sprinter, a jumper and a hurdler. In 2007 she set 12 world and 31 American records. Raschker was named Athlete of the Year by Masters Athlete magazine, Atlanta Sports Amateur Athlete of the Year and Female World Masters Athlete of the Year by the World Masters Athletics Association/International Association of Athletics Federations.
Angela Tincher, softball
Virginia Tech’s Tincher led the nation with a 0.56 ERA and was second in strikeouts (617). The Atlantic Coast Conference pitcher of the year was 38-7, setting school and ACC wins records. As a junior, she threw five no-hitters, including two perfect games. Tincher, 22, of Eagle Rock, Va., also had a school-record 23 shutouts. She was a finalist for the USA Softball National Player of the Year.
Jonathan Horton, gymnastics
The Oklahoma student won NCAA championships on floor (9.65) and high bar (9.675). Horton, 22, also earned All-America honors in the all-around and on high bar, floor, rings and vault. He broke Olympian Bart Conner’s OU records for career NCAA titles (five) and career All-America honors (15). He won his second consecutive Tyson American Cup title with a 92.75 all-around score. Horton became the first athlete to win back-to-back American Cup titles since the USA’s Blaine Wilson won three in a row from 1997 to 1999. His hometown is Houston.