The University of Oklahoma softball team had three seniors nominated for the 2013 Senior CLASS Award.
Keilani Ricketts, Jessica Shults and Brianna Turang are three of the 30 finalists for the CLASS honor, which is an acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®. The Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition. Student-athletes who met the criteria were nominated by their schools and a panel trimmed that list to the 30 announced Wednesday.
The Sooners are the first team in any sport in the 13-year history of the award to have three candidates among the top 30.
Ricketts is a three-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American, two of the three being first team. She was the 2012 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, the 2012 Honda Softball Player of the Year and a finalist for the 2012 Honda Cup, the highest award a women's collegiate student-athlete can win.
She opened the 2013 season as the NFCA and USA Softball National Player of the Week after throwing a pair of no-hitters against top-25 teams at the Kajikawa Classic. She is 4-0 on the season with a 1.38 earned run average and 46 strikeouts in 30.1 innings pitched. At the plate, Ricketts has hit .462 with two home runs and a 1.290 OPS (on-base + slugging percentage).
Ricketts has volunteered at area non-profit agencies including the latest effort, a week in late November, at Mission Norman. Additionally, she has coordinated equipment drives to collect softball equipment to donate to groups that have a need.
Shults learned how to juggle her OU playing career and academics with an extensive commitment to the US National Team and has had the additional challenge of dealing with a serious health issue that became a significant concern at the end of the 2011 spring semester. A three-time All-American, she has started all 10 games this season for the Sooners with two home runs and 13 runs batted in.
Off the field, Shults has taken her own experience with pan ulcerative colitis and used it to speak up about the rare genetic disease, particularly challenging for an elite collegiate student-athlete.
Turang, a dual sport athlete at OU in softball and soccer, has been named to the President's Honor Roll (4.00 GPA) twice , the Dean's Honor Roll (3.50-3.99 GPA) once, the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll four times and is a four-time Sooner Scholar.
A leader in OU's Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter, she and another Sooner student-athlete started their own charity in partnership with the FCA—Christmas1:27. The mission of the group is to bring Christmas to orphans who have been neglected, physically and sexually abused and orphans who are in need of a stable home.
On the field, Turang ranks seventh in school history with 57 stolen bases and boasts a career average of .347. This year, she has played in 9 of 10 games with eight starts. Turang ranks fourth on the team with a .412 batting average and is third with eight runs scored.
The candidate class will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season, and those names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one finalist who best exemplifies excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition. The Senior CLASS Award winner will be announced during the 2013 NCAA Women's College World Series® in Oklahoma City May 30 through June 5.