WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Alex Rolfe, a Northwest Conference champion in cross country and an NAIA All-American in track and field, is the 1997 winner of the Borleske Trophy, which is given annually to the most outstanding male student-athlete at Whitman College.
The trophy, which is awarded by a vote of the Whitman coaching staff, recognizes athletic ability and accomplishments, leadership and sportsmanship qualities, and contributions to the campus as a whole.
Rolfe, a graduate of Sentinel High School in Missoula, Montana, burst into prominence at Whitman in the fall of his sophomore season, when he helped the Missionaries claim a share of the men's Northwest Conference of Independent Colleges (NCIC) cross country title. Running on Whitman's home course, Rolfe placed sixth individually and was one of three Missionaries to earn all-conference honors by placing in the top seven.
A few weeks later, Rolfe paced the Whitman men's team at the NAIA national championships, placing 36th in a field of more than 300 runners. His time of the 8,000 meters -- 25 minutes, 44 seconds -- was the best time ever recorded by a Whitman runner at the NAIA national course at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
In the spring of his sophomore year, Rolfe shattered Whitman's school record in the 10,000 meters and placed first in the 5,000 meters at three separate track meets. Having already qualified for the NAIA national championships in the 10,000 meters, he ran the 5,000 and 1,500 at the NCIC championships, placing second and fifth, respectively. After placing third in the 5,000 meters in an NAIA regional meet, Rolfe raced to a seventh-place finish in the 10,000 meters at the NAIA national championships.That performance was good for All-American honors, and his time -- 31:12.16 -- lowered his existing school record.
As a junior, Rolfe further established himself as the best distance runner in the conference, winning the NCIC cross country championship race in a career best time of 25:17. Later that fall, however, an Achilles tendon injury slowed Rolfe to a disappointing 128th-place finish at the NAIA national championships.
The injury proved to be a chronic condition that prevented Rolfe from running competitively for the rest of his Whitman career.
"It's unfortunate the injury had to happen," Whitman track and cross country coach Keith Jensen said. "Alex was a very intelligent runner, and he worked very, very hard. He kept getting better and better his first three seasons, so we were all disappointed when he wasn't able to run at all as a senior."
Rolfe, a history major, graduates cum laude later this month.