Elite 89 is an annual NCAA competition decided by fan voting. The 89 contestants consist of the members from each team that participated at a finals site with the highest GPA. Coupled with the women’s volleyball team’s successful season, Harding’s 4.0 made her the obvious choice to compete for the crown from Division I women’s volleyball. The food sciences major and THON 2014 dancer last won the award in December 2012 when the Nittany Lions made it to the semifinals before bowing out to Oregon.
She’ll need some help to win it again, however. At the time of this writing, she’s 12th of the 89 competitors, trailing leader Sam Malone of Kentucky’s men’s basketball by about 1,150 votes. But there’s still a lot of time for Harding. Voting goes until July 13 at 5 p.m. for the first round, after which the field will be narrowed to 30 competitors and voting will start anew.