Husker Fan Favorites to Highlight Torch Lighting


LINCOLN, Neb. (June 29, 2023) — Decorated former Husker Volleyball standout Nicklin Hames and recently-transferred Husker Softball player Jordy Bahl will be on hand to help kick off the 39th annual Cornhusker State Games in Opening Night festivities in front of Pinnacle Bank Arena beginning at 7:45 p.m. on Thursday, July 6.

The 2023 Cornhusker State Games begin July 7 with swimming at the Fremont YMCA through Sunday the 9th, and horseshoe pitching and the youth golf state championship, both in Columbus July 8-9.  Competition will be held in more than 70 sports over the following three weekends. More than 10,000 Nebraskans are expected to participate. Those interested can still register for most sports at

Hames and Bahl will bookend a torch lighting program which also includes Husker basketball standout Jaz Shelley, who announced earlier this year that she’ll be back for the 2023-24 season, and Husker track athlete and hometown favorite Jess Gardner. All four will sign autographs after the program and the public is welcome to attend for free. Hiland Dairy will provide free ice cream treats for those in attendance.

The Opening Night program, which will be televised and streamed live by News Channel Nebraska, begins at 7:45 p.m. with interviews of Governor Jim Pillen, Nebraska National Guard Adjutant General Daryl Bohac and other dignitaries, followed by the presentation of colors and the national anthem performed by Norris High School Graduate and UNL Student Brianna Stai.

The torch lighting is expected to take place around 8 p.m. in a relay beginning with Bahl inside Bowlin Stadium. Torch bearers will proceed, escorted by soldiers from the Nebraska Air National Guard, from there, across the pedestrian bridge, where Hames will complete the relay and light the caldron.

Nebraska Sports Council Executive Director Dave Mlnarik said the torch bearers have all demonstrated great character while competing at the highest levels in their respective sports. He noted that Hames was chosen as the final runner in honor of her now-completed highly-decorated playing career.

“Nicklin excelled at the very highest levels of high school and college volleyball. As a Husker she was a fierce competitor, a great leader and a fan favorite, but also a girl who has always been very generous with her time in the community. All of our torch bearers are tremendous athletes, class individuals and great examples for young Nebraska athletes,” Mlnarik said.

Opening Night sponsors include presenting partners: Arby’s of Lincoln, Liberty First Credit Union and VisitLincoln. Black Hills Energy is the Torch Lighting sponsor. Torch Bearer appearances are sponsored by Crete Carrier Corp./Shaffer Trucking, Amigos/Kings Classic and J & H Specialty Contracting. Production Partners include News Channel Nebraska, Digital Sky and Complete Weddings and Events. Hiland Dairy is the Ice Cream sponsor, and the autograph session is presented by the Nebraska Air National Guard.

The Cornhusker State Games is produced by the Nebraska Sports Council, which also conducts the Lincoln and Omaha Corporate Games, the Pumpkin Run, Nebraska DiamondFest, Nebraska NetFest, the Nebraska AAU Volleyball Grand Prix and the WellPower Movement. Platinum sponsors include: Farmers Mutual of Nebraska, the Nebraska Medical Association, Nebraska Orthopaedic Center and Pepsi-Cola of Lincoln. Learn more at


Nicklin Hames

  • From Knoxville, Tennessee
  • All-Big Ten Freshman Team (2018)
  • Tom Osborne Citizenship Team (2019, 2020, 2021, 2022)
  • Nebraska Heart & Soul Award (2023)
  • NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team (2021)
  • NCAA Austin Regional Most Outstanding Player (2021)
  • AVCA All-America Second Team (2020)
  • AVCA All-North Region (2019, 2020, 2021)
  • All-Big Ten First Team (2019, 2020)
  • All-Big Ten Second Team (2021)
  • Became Nebraska’s career assists record holder with 5,086 to end her career

Jordy Bahl

  • From Papillion, Nebraska
  • Two time NCAA National Champion (2022-2023)
  • NCAA D1 Softball Pitcher of the Year (2023)
  • Two time NFCA First Team All-American (2022-2023)
  • Two time USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 10 Finalist (2022-2023)
  • WCWS All-Tournament Team (2023)
  • WCWS Most Outstanding Player (2023)
  • Two time Big 12 Pitcher of Year (2022-2023)
  • Two time All-Big 12 First Team (2022-2023)
  • Gatorade Nebraska Player of the Year (2019, 2020)
  • Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year (2020)
  • Led Papillion-La Vista to three Nebraska state titles

Jaz Shelley

  • From Moe, Australia
  • All-Big Ten First Team (2023)
  • All-Big Ten Second Team (2022)
  • Big Ten All-Defensive Team (2022)
  • Nebraska 3-Point FGM Game Record of 9
  • Big Ten Tournament 3-Point FGM Game Record of 9
  • Australian National Team (2020-Present)
  • Australian FIBA Asia Cup Team (Bronze, 2021)
  • Australian FIBA U17 World Championship Team (Gold, 2016)
  • Tom Osborne Citizenship Team (2022, 2023)
  • NBA Student-Athlete Summit (2022)
  • 10 Double-Doubles (4, 2022-23; 6, 2021-22)

Jess Gardner

  • From Lincoln, NE; attended North Star High School
  • Big Ten Distinguished Scholar (2021, 2022)
  • Academic All-Big Ten (2021, 2022, 2023)
  • USTFCCCA All-Academic (2021)
  • Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll (Fall 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022; Spring 2020, 2021, 2022)
  • Tom Osborne Citizenship Team (2020, 2021, 2022, 2023)
  • Pole vault champion at the Mark Colligan Memorial with a mark of 12-7 1/4 (2023)
  • P10th in the pole vault at the Big Ten Indoor Championships (2023)
  • Third in the pole vault at the Graduate Classic with a 12-3 1/2 (2023)
  • Attended North Star High School in Lincoln
  • Set an NSAA high school best in the pole vault with a clearance of 12-1
  • Runner-up at the NSAA Class A State Championships in 2019, 2018, 2017 and took third in 2016