Mark Prior Named One Of Five AAU Sullivan Award Finalists

March 12, 2002

ORLANDO, Fla. - The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) today announced the names of the five finalists for the 72nd Annual AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award, which recognizes the top amateur athlete in the nation. Natalie Coughlin (swimming), Michelle Kwan (skating), Mark Prior (baseball), Sean Townsend (gymnastics), and Alan Webb (track and field) were selected based on their qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship and the ideals of amateurism in the year 2001.

The recipient will be formally announced at the award's new presentation site The New York Athletic Club on April 9th, 2002. 'These individuals exemplify the best amateur athletes in all of sport with their commitment to sportsmanship, community, and education,' said AAU President Bobby Dodd. 'The AAU represents 34 sports from the grass roots to the national level, they are the role models for our athletes to follow. It will be hard to announce one recipient on April 9th.'

Meet the 2001 AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award Finalists:

  • Natalie Coughlin, who currently swims for University of California, could be only the tenth swimmer to receive the award. Over a five-day span, she won nine events, broke two world records, two American records, and six meet records in butterfly, backstroke, and freestyle.

  • Michelle Kwan, who recently captured the bronze medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake, could be only the second figure skater to hold the honor of top amateur athlete. Dick Button won in 1949. Kwan's accomplishments in 2001 include her fourth career and second consecutive World Ladies Figure Skating title.

  • Mark Prior, USA Baseball's 2001 Golden Spikes Award winner, is currently vying for a spot in the starting rotation for the Chicago Cubs organization. He joins J.D Drew, Pat Burrell and 1987 winner Jim Abbott as only the fourth baseball player to be a finalist.

  • Sean Townsend, the 2001 World Champion in Parallel Bars, helped his team capture the USA's first ever Silver Medal at the 2001 World Championships. He has the chance to be only the second gymnast to hold the honor as Kurt Thomas was honored in 1979.

  • Alan Webb made history at the new Balance Games by becoming the first American High School athlete to run an indoor mile in under four minutes (3:59.86). He would join an impressive roster of 34 track super stars that have received the AAU Sullivan Award.

    Considered the 'Oscar' of sports awards, the AAU James E. Sullivan Award has been presented to prominent athletes of our time including last year's recipient Rulon Gardner. Others include: Chamique Holdsclaw (1998), Peyton Manning (1997), William 'Bill' Bradley (1965), Dan Jansen (1994), Janet Evans (1989), Jim Abbott (1987), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1986), Greg Louganis (1984), the late Florence Griffith-Joyner (1988) and the first recipient the late, great golfer Robert Jones.

    The AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award has been presented annually by the AAU since 1930 as a salute to founder and past president of the AAU, and a pioneer in amateur sports, James E. Sullivan. 'The AAU was founded in the clubhouse of the NewYork Athletic Club,' said Al Green, President, New York Athletic Club, 'so it is only fitting that we move the presentation of the most prestigious amateur sports award back to the place where national amateur athletic competition began. The NYAC is extremely proud to be a part of the award.'

    A 700-member panel of AAU board of directors, the U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors, the AAU Sullivan Committee, past Sullivan Award winners, and select members of the sports media vote on the winner. The AAU Sullivan Award recipient receives a bronze replica of the original trophy that depicts the figure of a runner carrying a laurel branch mounted on a black pedestal.

    The AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award will be housed permanently in the Hall of Fame Section of the New York Athletic Club. The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) is one of the largest, non-profit, volunteer, sports organizations in the United States. A multi-sport organization, the AAU is dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports and physical fitness programs for all ages. Nearly 500,000 participants and over 50,000 volunteers share our philosophy of 'Sports for All, Forever.'

    Divided into 58 distinct associations, the AAU sanctions more than 34 sports programs, 250 national championships and over 10,000 local events across the United States annually. For more information on the AAU please visit our website at

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