By James Hemker
Junior Kathryn Plummer was named the 89th James E. Sullivan award winner, presented by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). Plummer, an outside hitter on the women’s volleyball team, is just the second volleyball player to win the annual award, which goes to “the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States.”
Plummer is Stanford’s fourth winner after W. Lawson Little, Jr. (golf, 1935), Bob Mathias (decathlon, 1948) and Janet Evans (swimming, 1989).
“I would like to thank my family, I couldn’t have gotten to this point without you guys,” said Plummer after receiving the award at the New York Athletic Club on Tuesday evening. “Thank you for coming to every game and being my biggest cheerleaders. You are my biggest role models, and I owe you everything.”
The award is conducted through a series of voting polls that take into account the opinions of fans, media and coaches. Three other Cardinal women — Ella Eastin (swimming), Catarina Macario (soccer) and Elizabeth Price (gymnastics) — all made the 16-person semi-final round, but Plummer was the only Stanford athlete to enter the final eight-person round of voting.
“Thank you to everyone who voted, across the country and the world,” said Plummer. “Thank you to Stanford, Kevin [Hambly], all my coaches and professors for molding me into the person and player I am today. And finally, thank you to the AAU and the New York Athletic Club for holding this event and allowing me to meet some of the coolest people. These are the best athletes in the country, but they are also so cool, so smart, so hardworking and so funny. I’ve really enjoyed getting to meet them and continue the relationships.”
Plummer has emerged as the country’s most dominant force in collegiate women’s volleyball over her past three years on the Farm. She was a part of both NCAA Championship teams (2016, 2018) and she was named the AVCA Freshman of the Year (2016) in her first season. She has been named the National Player of the Year twice (2017, 2018) by both epsnW and the AVCA. Additionally, VolleyballMag.com named her the 2018 Player of the Year.
Plummer is also the recipient of the Honda Sport Award for women’s volleyball (2018), and she has garnered first-team All-America honors in each of her three seasons. The NCAA twice named her to the Final Four All-Tournament team (2016, 2018), and last season she was named Co-Most Outstanding Player.
Plummer joins the upper echelons of American sports history, as previous Sullivan Award winners include Wilma Rudolph (1961), Mark Spitz (1970), Bill Walton (1973), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1981), Peyton Manning (1997), Michelle Kwan (2001), Michael Phelps (2003) and Missy Franklin (2012).
“Looking at the former winners, it is extremely humbling to be up here,” added Plummer. “I’m looking forward to the future. I can’t wait to be a role model for young girls. I’m really excited, and I thank you all so much.”
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.