By Do-Hyoung Park
In an annual Bootleg tradition, we are proud to present the last five of the 10 winners of The Bootleg’s 2016 Honor Roll, spanning the 2015-16 academic year. The criteria are as follows:
“Each academic year, The Bootleg’s Honor Roll will recognize the top 10 Stanford student-athletes who have performed at an exceptional level, with athletic accomplishments that are both extraordinary and inspirational. While achieving athletic success, these athletes should also have displayed uncommon leadership, sportsmanship and respect towards their fellow teammates and opponents. Finally, these honorees’ performances and actions should also demonstrate their love for their particular sport as well as their school pride, the famed “Spirit of Stanford.”
Akash Modi (M. Gymnastics)
The 5-foot-1 native of New Jersey has been quietly redefining the standard for brilliance in collegiate gymnastics during his three years on The Farm since the moment he stepped on campus. Consider this: Modi has been named MPSF Gymnast of the Year in all three of his years at Stanford and has won CGA Gymnast of the Week honors 14 times in his career, a new Division I record. And that’s with one more year to go.
Stanford men’s gymnastics has now placed in the top three at the NCAA Championships in 10 of the last 11 years, and Modi’s all-around brilliance was the anchor on a brilliant 2016 squad that counted among its highlights a second-place finish at NCAAs and a victory over Japan in the International Collegiate Challenge at Burnham Pavilion in February. That’s the same Japan that’s the reigning World Gymnastics Champion.
Modi took home the NCAA titles in both the parallel bars and the high bar, a year after placing first in the all-around in the NCAA Individual Finals. After the season, he was named a replacement to the U.S. Olympic men’s gymnastics squad, one of only two collegians that were named as either team members or replacements. As if that’s not enough, he’s going to earn a degree in mechanical engineering by the time he leaves Stanford.
Jordan Morris (M. Soccer)
Soccer fans around the U.S. have hailed him as “The American Messi.” He’s widely considered America’s next great striker. He just signed the most lucrative homegrown player contract in the history of the MLS, with his native Seattle Sounders. And Stanford was lucky enough to call Jordan Morris one of its own for the last three years, culminating in Morris putting the stamp on the only national title in program history with a brace in the national championship match against Clemson.
But it’s what Morris has accomplished off The Farm that’s resonated as much as -- if not more than -- what he’s been able to do at Stanford. He missed parts of the 2015 season to play for the USMNT, becoming the first active collegian since 1995 to make a cap for the national team and becoming the first collegian since 1992 to score in an international match when he drove one into the back of the net on April 15, 2015 against Mexico.
When the dust cleared on J-Mo’s spectacular career, he went down as a three-time All-Pac-12 First Team selection, the Pac-12 Player of the Year in 2015, the winner of the 2015 MAC Hermann Trophy (honoring the top collegiate soccer player in the nation). And he’s not letting the success dictate his future, either -- he could have seeked prestige by going to Europe (as Jurgen Klinsmann had so vocally wanted) but chose to stay close to his family in Washington.
Lia Neal (Swimming)
The whole nation has been up in arms about fellow sprinter Simone Manuel over the last few days -- and rightfully so, with Manuel becoming the first African-American woman ever to earn an individual swimming medal at the Olympics. But in this space, we acknowledge Stanford (and national team) teammate Lia Neal, who medaled at the Rio Olympics as well but also made historic strides as a member of Stanford’s team during the season (Manuel took a redshirt year to prepare for the Olympic trials).
Neal won silver as part of the United States’ 4x100-meter freestyle relay in Rio to earn her second Olympic medal after taking bronze in London in 2012 in that same event. Not only that, but she also took home two NCAA Championships this last season swimming the freestyle leg in both the 200-yard medley relay and the 400-yard medley relay as Stanford finished second at NCAAs as a team. She also won five Pac-12 titles and was named a six-time first-team All-American for her efforts and will return next year for what’s sure to be a spectacular senior campaign. Look for Neal and Manuel to anchor the greatest sprinting corps in the nation when they’re reunited on the Stanford team next season.
Elizabeth Price (W. Gymnastics)
Amidst all of the excitement regarding the Olympics, here’s the fascinating case of Elizabeth “Ebee” Price, who has expressed no real desire to aim for the highest stage in the sport despite being one of the best collegiate gymnasts in the country. She was a member of the U.S. Junior National Team from 2010-12 and the Senior National Team from 2012-14 before arriving on The Farm and has already compiled six All-America honors and a national title in her short two-year collegiate career.
She was named the Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year after taking First-Team All-America honors in the all-around, vault, beam and bars, and anchored the all-around with dominant performance after dominant performance throughout the season, dominance that was fully expected by the U.S. gymnastics community when she was a high schooler -- before she inexplicably (in their eyes) chose to pursue a “career” in collegiate gymnastics instead, something she has stated has always been her goal, even more so than to compete in the Olympics.
At Stanford, she’s pursuing a degree in biomechanical engineering, with the ultimate goal of simplifying medical devices and making them more affordable for everyone, while being one of the best gymnasts in the country on the side. If that doesn’t embody the “Spirit of Stanford,” we’re not sure what else does.
Andi Sullivan (W. Soccer)
Everyone in the country figured the young Andi Sullivan was special when, at age 18, she captained the U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team despite being the youngest player on the roster -- and led the team to a CONCACAF title. That, of course, helped make her transition into one of three team captains as a sophomore last season pretty easy, especially with a young Stanford roster welcoming in the top recruiting class in the country and looking to turn the page after the departure of several noted veterans.
And boy, did Sullivan rise to the occasion. She’s not necessarily the most vocal captain but excels at leading by example as one of the top midfielders in the country, earning First-Team All-America honors as the only Pac-12 player and one of only two underclassmen to be recognized as such. She was a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, just a year after unanimously being named both the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and the national freshman of the year. She’s going to anchor a 2016 squad (that has already kicked off its season, by the way) that will look to avenge an early exit from last year’s NCAA Tournament, when the team didn’t reach the College Cup (collegiate soccer’s final four) for just the second time in eight years.