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The best of the Big 12

Volleyball's Camryn Turner & pole vaulter Clayton Simms receive KU's nominations for conference athletes of the year

3 min read
Pole vaulter Clayton Simms (left) and setter Camryn Turner (right) were KU's 2024 nominees for the annual Big 12 Athlete of the Year award. [Kansas Athletics/R1S1 photos]

Now that June has almost come and gone, it’s time for the Big 12 Conference to name its annual male and female Big 12 Athletes of the Year and a pair of Jayhawks are in the running.

Volleyball All-American Camryn Turner was KU’s female nominee and track and field All-American Clayton Simms earned the nod among KU’s male athletes.

Each institution nominated one male and one female athlete of any classification that competed for their institution during the 2023-24 school year. Student-athletes were required to be in good academic standing and had to be from a league-sponsored sport.

The 14 schools that competed during the 2023-24 academic year were all eligible to nominate their athletes.

According to a KU spokesperson, Turner and Simms were nominated by the athletic department's communications office, which considered several candidates and talked to multiple people within the department before submitting the final two nominees.

The winners will be announced by the Big 12 Conference on Wednesday.

Here’s a quick look at each Jayhawk’s accomplishments during the 2023-24 seasons, along with links back to our in-depth feature stories about each of them.

Camryn Turner sets a ball during a home match in 2023. [Chance Parker photo]

Camryn Turner, junior setter, KU volleyball

Turner had without question one of the best years of any female athlete at Kansas.

In addition to earning Big 12 Setter of the Year and first team all-Big 12 honors, Turner was a KVCA All-American for the first time and also earned all-region honors.

Beyond that, the Topeka native was one of the leaders and driving forces behind one of the best seasons in Kansas volleyball history.

Behind her 10.67 assists-per-set average, which led the Big 12, Turner and the Jayhawks finished 24-6 overall and 14-4 in Big 12 play, finishing second in the conference standings.

That led the Jayhawks to the NCAA Tournament, where they earned the right to host the first and second rounds. They bowed out in a five-set thriller to perennial power Penn State at Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena.

Turner had been building toward a showing like her junior season for years. And her dream of becoming an All-American while playing at KU took root long before she arrived on the KU campus.

Here’s our look at Turner's volleyball journey that brought her to this point.

Clayton Simms gets locked in during a meet. [Kansas Athletics photo]

Clayton Simms, junior pole vaulter, KU track & field

Simms may not have the same household name status as a KU basketball or football player, but he definitely was one of the most accomplished male athletes at KU during the 2023-24 season.

A junior from Watson, Louisiana — just outside of Baton Rouge — Simms was 2 for 2 in reaching the medal stand at nationals this school year, making it to indoor nationals in Boston in March and outdoor nationals in Oregon in May.

He earned All-American status at both events, placing 6th in Boston and 2nd in Oregon.

Perhaps more important than either of those individual showings, however, was the fact that he now is 6 for 6 at nationals in his KU career.

In case you missed it, here’s a little more about that streak, what it means to him and why Simms is completely OK with talking about making it 8 for 8 during his senior season.

“Now, I’m competing for that No. 1 spot every time I go out there,” he told R1S1 Sports earlier this year. “Every time we go to meets, it’s to try to win.”

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