WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Denise Kirstein, the Northwest Conference Volleyball Player of the Year, and Paola Vizcaino, a two-time winner of the same award in women's tennis, are co-winners of the 2004 Mignon Borleske Trophy, which is presented annually to the top female 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.
Kirstein and Vizcaino are the first co-winners of the Mignon Borleske Trophy in a decade. Brooke Edwards, a volleyball player, and Tobey McDonald, an alpine skier, shared the trophy in 1994.
Kirstein, a senior biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology major from Spokane, Wash., was named NWC Volleyball Player of the Year last fall after leading the conference in kills, setting a new Whitman single-season school record with a total 423 kills. Kirstein also played on the women's basketball team, which won a share of the conference title in February.
Vizcaino, a senior economics major from Metepec, Mexico, was named NWC Women's Tennis Player of the Year at the end of her first two seasons at Whitman. After missing her junior season while studying in Paris, France, Vizcaino returned for her senior campaign and was named NWC Sportswoman of the Year.
Kirstein, a graduate of Spokane's Ferris High School, plans to attend medical school after graduating from Whitman. She wrote her senior thesis on research she did last summer on how a class of molecules called retinoids are involved in normal blood cell development, and how they can be used to turn leukemic blood cells into normal blood cells. Her volunteer work has included time spent at Walla Walla's S.O.S. Clinic, which provides medical care to people without insurance.
Kirstein was a dominating force for the women's volleyball team last fall, winning NWC Player of the Week honors three times in the span of four weeks. In addition to leading the conference in kills, she led Whitman in digs and finished among the league leaders in hiting percentage. She also was named to the NCAA Div. III Academic All-Region Volleyball Team last fall.
Whitman's Mignon Borleske Trophy was one of two major awards Kirstein received this week. She also was named "Female Athlete of the Year" when the Blue Mountain Sports Awards were announced earlier in the week. The Blue Mountain awards recognize high school and collegiate athletic achievements in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin newspaper's coverage area.
Kirstein finished her four seasons of volleyball with totals of 1,066 kills, 1,095 digs, 133 blocks and 85 service aces. In four seasons of basketball, she started 72 of 97 games, collecting a total of 648 rebounds and 507 points.
Vizcaino played No. 1 singles in each of her three seasons at Whitman, compiling a record of 34-2 against Northwest Conference opponents. She was undefeated in NWC singles during her first season, and her only loss in singles as a sophomore came as she battled a foot and ankle injury.
As a senior, Vizcaino was 16-2 on the season at No. 1 singles, and she and teammate Hannah Swee were 14-4 at No. 1 doubles. Vizcaino is a nominee this spring for the NCAA Div. III Academic All-Region Women's Tennis Team.
Vizcaino, a graduate of the Tecnologico de Monterrey in Toluca, Mexico, was elected this spring to Phi Beta Kappa, the national honorary society. She also was named a Junior Fellow by the American Academy of Political & Social Science. She researched and wrote her senior honors thesis on labor union affiliation and recent immigrant workers. She begins a six-month internship later this summer with the AFL-CIO's Office of Investment in Washington, D.C.
The Mignon Borleske Trophy honors a woman who first came to Whitman in 1915 as the young spouse of Raymond V. Borleske, a sports legend in the making. Her husband, who had starred as a football and baseball player at Whitman, was embarking at the time on a long coaching careeer at his alma mater. Mignon Borleske taught dance and women's education classes at Whitman for nearly four decades.