(Editor's note: Montana AAU press release.)
BILLINGS — The Montana Amateur Athletic Union is calling on sports fans to cast their vote for the 2023 Little Sullivan Awards. The organization announced its male and female finalists earlier this year.
The female finalists are Kola Bad Bear, Ayla Embry, Brittanee Fisher, and Sophia Stiles. The male finalists are Duncan Hamilton, Robby Hauck, Jacob Morgan, and Patrick O’Connell.
The two award winners will be announced during the Montana AAU Little Sullivan awards banquet on May 6 at Fairmont Hot Springs. To cast votes for the male and female winners, please email email@example.com by Thursday, April 27.
Former Montana State football player Troy Andersen and Belgrade Olympic shooter Ali Weisz won the 2022 Little Sullivan Awards.
Bad Bear was an all-state basketball and volleyball player at Billings Senior and recently finished her career with the Montana State women’s basketball team. Bad Bear was an All-Big Sky Conference second team selection this season, and recently announced her plans to transfer for her final year of eligibility.
An academic all-conference honoree, Bad Bear was also active in raising awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP).
Embry starred on the courts at Bozeman High School before continuing her volleyball career at Rocky Mountain College. She racked up numerous accolades for the Battlin’ Bears, including multiple NAIA national defender of the week honors. She was named NAIA Honorable Mention All-American, as well as Third Team All-American.
She led the Battlin’ Bears to a Frontier Conference tournament championship, helping Rocky advance to the NAIA Volleyball National Championship final site. Embry finished her career as the all-time Frontier Conference leader in digs.
Fisher found success on the softball diamond at Billings Senior, earning all-state status for the Broncs, but it was at MSU Billings where her career exploded. Fisher earned honorable mention all-conference accolades as a freshman before capturing first-team and second-team honors throughout her career.
Fisher belted a Yellowjacket school record 41 home runs, ranking third in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s history. She was also named a GNAC Academic All-Conference selection and added an NFCA all-America Scholar Athlete honor to her resume.
A two-time Montana Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Stiles helped guide Malta to a pair of Class B state championships, while also earning nine track and field championships in the hurdles and jumps. She found her way into the starting lineup late in her freshman season at the University of Montana, and started every game as a redshirt sophomore.
She was named Second Team All-Big Sky Conference as a redshirt senior at UM, while adding numerous school and conference academic honors. She recently completed her collegiate career at Florida Gulf Coast University, starting nearly every game while lifting the Eagles to the NCAA Tournament.
Hamilton will go down as one of the most decorated runners in Montana State history after collecting numerous All-Conference, All-Region, and All-American awards. The Bozeman native, who helped his high school Hawks to the Nike Cross National Cross Country title, won Big Sky Conference championships in the steeplechase and indoor mile.
While competing in eight NCAA meets, Hamilton collected First Team All-American accolades twice, and was named Second Team twice. He owns multiple MSU records and boasts one of the fastest men’s collegiate steeplechase times in history – 8:18.88. Hamilton also finished runner-up in his first international competition at the North American-Central American-Caribbean Area Championships (NACAC).
Hauck added to his family’s legacy with the University of Montana football program after becoming the school’s and Big Sky Conference’s all-time leading tackler from the safety position. Playing for his father, Bobby, and following in the footsteps of his uncle, Tim, Hauck captured national recognition as a redshirt freshman, collecting more tackles than any freshman across the country.
His career only improved from there, with All-Big Sky and All-American as a sophomore, junior, and senior. Hauck was named to the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List last fall and finished his career with 482 tackles. He was also stellar in the classroom, becoming a three-time Academic All-American.
Born in Japan, Morgan moved to Montana to attend Billings Central and became decorated in the classroom and on the wrestling mats for the Rams. A 4.0 GPA student, Morgan collected 95 wins in his prep career, wrestling for his father, before joining the University of Mary program.
While wrestling for the Marauders, Morgan became a four-time Academic All-Conference honoree and earned the prestigious Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) Myles Brand All-Academic with Distinction Award for 2023. The honor is bestowed to senior NSIC student-athletes who have a cumulative GPA of 3.75 or higher, are exhausting their eligibility, and are on track to graduate. Morgan was one of only four wrestlers in the conference to receive the honor.
O’Connell teamed with Hauck on the University of Montana defense and found ways to make an immediate impact. After being named the Grizzlies’ defensive scout team player of the year as a freshman, O’Connell’s career took off his sophomore season when he led UM in sacks — a trend he continued in each of his seasons.
The Kalispell native was named First Team All-Conference and All-American as a junior while being tabbed a Buchanan Award finalist. As a senior, O’Connell again led UM and the Big Sky Conference in sacks to collect First Team All-Big Sky honors and Second-Team All-American status. O’Connell will marry his high school sweetheart this summer while chasing dreams of playing in the National Football League.