Athletics Names 'Outstanding Performers'

News Release Date:
Saturday, May 21, 2011

WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- A total of nine Whitman College student athletes are the latest recipients of athletic achievement awards given annually by the athletic department.


Whitman's Department of Sports Studies, Recreation, and Athletics (SSRA) presents its Most Outstanding Performer awards each spring.


There are two awards (one male, one female) given for each class, although voting this year produced co-winners in the first-year cases.

The 2010-11 winners, as announced at the recent Whitman Athletics Recognition Night in the Reid Campus Center, include seniors Kristen Ballinger (cross country) and Cooper Crosby (soccer).

The senior awards are given in honor of the late Max Seachris, a former Whitman athlete, baseball coach and athletic director, and Lee Coleman, a retired swim coach and early champion of women's intercollegiate athletics.


Basketball player Jenele Peterson took home the women's junior class award, which is named in honor of former women's tennis coach Jayne McCarthy.


Tennis player Conor Holton-Burke won the male award for the junior class, which is given in memory of former tennis and basketball coach Bob Burgess.

Other winners of Most Outstanding Performer awards this year include sophomore swimmers Katie Chapman and Paul Chang.

Volleyball player Jillian Davis (volleyball) won the women's award for the first-year class, which saw co-winners on the men's side: Josh Duckworth (basketball) and Andrew La Cava (tennis).

More information about the winners follows:

Outstanding Performers: Senior Class

Kristen Ballinger and Cooper Crosby capped their college careers with stellar senior seasons for their respective teams.

Ballinger (Wenatchee, Wash.; Wenatchee HS), who transferred to Whitman as a sophomore, qualified for the NCAA Division III National Cross Country Championships last fall for a third straight season. She is only the fourth Whitman woman to earn a spot at nationals in the time since Whitman shifted its affiliation from the NAIA to the NCAA in the late 1990s.

Kristen Ballinger

Ballinger qualified for nationals last November by placing 11th at the West Region championships. She and sophomore Emilie Gilbert, who finished 29th in a field of 113 runners, earned all-region honors while leading Whitman to a fifth-place finish in the team scoring.

Ballinger was on track for a top-100 finish in a field of nearly 300 runners at nationals before she was slowed by side cramps. She finished in 139th place in 22:44.3 (6,000 meters), which was about 70 seconds faster than her time a year earlier when she placed 133rd.

Her best finish at nationals came at the end of her sophomore season, when she finished 107th.

Ballinger, a senior captain, tuned up for last fall's regional and national competitions by placing eighth at the NWC Championships. It was her third straight top 10 finish at the conference meet, giving her all-conference honors for the third time in three seasons.

After an illness-related slow start to her senior season, Ballinger was the top finisher for the Whitman women in their last four races of the season. Her highest finish came at the Pioneer Open (Estacada, Ore.), where she finished sixth individually and led Whitman to second place in the team scoring.

Ballinger also helped the women's squad earn All-Academic Team honors (U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association) in each of her three seasons at Whitman.

Ballinger's Outstanding Performer award is her second at Whitman. She also won the award a year ago as a junior.

Crosby (Vashon Island, Wash.; Vashon Island HS), a four-year starter and two-year captain with the men's soccer team, led Whitman in minutes played at the center of the defensive backline, where his rugged played wreaked havoc on opposing offenses.

Cooper Crosby

Both Crosby and senior co-captain Conner Bottomly, a midfielder-forward who led Whitman in scoring last fall, were among the 11 players named to the 11-man All-NWC First Team.

Crosby made the All-NWC Second Team as a junior after earning Honorable Mention recognition at the end of his sophomore season.

Strong and agile at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Crosby helped the Whitman defense post seven shutouts last fall. The Missionaries finished the season on a strong note, going 7-0-1 over its final eight games to place second in the NWC standings for the second time in three years.

The late-season run, which left included a school-record six straight victories, left Whitman one win short of a conference title. The Missionaries finished with records of 11-6-3 overall and 9-3-2 in the NWC.

Crosby, known for his knack of elevating off the turf to head balls away from the Missionary goal, also added to the offense as a senior with one goal and one assist. His goal, coming off a header, gave Whitman a thrilling 2-1 victory over Pacific with less than two minutes left in the second overtime.

The only other goal of his college career came during his sophomore season, when he headed home a corner kick to help the Missionaries salvage a 1-1 tie with Pacific.

In his four seasons, Crosby was part of a defense that posted a total of 20 shutouts. As a senior, he received team awards as Most Valuable Player as well as Best Defender.


Outstanding Performers: Junior Class

Basketball guard Jenele Peterson and tennis ace Conor Holto-Burke are the junior class winners this year.

Peterson (Redondo Beach, Calif.; South HS) enjoyed a bounce-back season last winter, earning a spot on the All-NWC First Team one year after suffering a serious knee injury.

Jenele Peterson

The 5-foot-7 point guard led Whitman in scoring (13.6 ppg) and assists (3.0 apg). She was seventh in the NWC in scoring and fifth in assists.

Peterson was second in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (plus 1.32) and sixth in free throw percentage (96-120, 80 percent). Only two players in the NWC made more total free throws than she did.

Peterson was named NWC Player of the Week in early January after scoring a career-high 26 points in one game and adding 23 points the next night. She made 17 of 30 shots from the floor, including five of seven 3-point attempts, in the two games. She also handed out a total of nine assists while snaring seven rebounds.

Peterson seldom left the floor in either of the two games, playing 37 of 40 minutes both nights. She also played long minutes in a two-overtime non-conference game against Northwest University, scoring a game-high 20 points to go with three assists, two steals and two blocked shots.

She got her comeback season off to a good start by leading Whitman to a pair of victories and the championship of a four-team tournament in Spokane. She averaged 13.5 points, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals in the two games and was named the tourney's MVP.

Peterson missed most of the 2009-10 season after hurting her knee that December. She received a medical red-shirt exemption and will return to the squad next season as a fifth-year senior. With 859 career points, she is on track to become the 13th player in the history of the Whitman women's program to surpass the 1,000-point plateau.

Peterson was named to the All-NWC Second Team at the end of her sophomore season (2008-09) and received Honorable Mention recognition to cap her first year at Whitman.

Holton-Burke (Boulder, Colo.; Fairview HS) enjoyed a break-out season as a junior, earning NWC Player of the Year honors -- an award that Whitman athletes have won in seven of the last 11 years.

Conor Holton-Burke

Holton-Burke, who played toward the bottom of the singles line-up a year ago, jumped to the No. 1 spot this season to help fill the void left by the graduation of seven seniors, including 2010 Player of the Year Matt Solomon. He rolled to records of 9-0 in singles against NWC opponents and teamed with freshman Andrew La Cava for a 9-1 record at No. 1 doubles.

Holton-Burke, who was named NWC Player of the Week in early April, is the first Whitman player in the long tenure of veteran coach Jeff Northam who sailed through an entire NWC season without losing a single match.

He and La Cava posted their most impressive doubles win of the season during a Spring Break trip to California, where they raced to an 8-2 win over Trinity's Bobby Cocanaugher and Cory Kowal, a duo that finished second at last year's NCAA DIII national doubles championship.

Holton-Burke led Whitman to its fourth straight undefeated NWC title and fifth consecutive ticket to the NCAA DIII national championships. His dual meet records in three NWC spring seasons are 21-1 in singles and 22-2 in doubles.

Last fall, Holton-Burke and La Cava won the doubles title at Intercollegiate Tennis Association fall tournament, earning All-American honors and advancing to the National Small College Championships in Mobile, Ala.

In the latest ITA West Region rankings, Holton-Burke is No. 22 in singles while he and La Cava are No. 7 in doubles.

Outstanding Performers: Sophomore Class

Katie Chapman and Paul Chang, a pair of swimmers who made a huge splash in the their second seasons at Whitman, are this year's Most Outstanding Performers in the sophomore class.

Chapman (Redmond, Wash.; Inglemoor HS) made Whitman swim team history at the NWC Championships in February, becoming the first Missionary swimmer to win three individual races at the highly competitive meet.

Katie Chapman

She broke school records in two of her races, helped shatter Whitman records in four relay events, and also became the first Missionary to be honored as the Women's Outstanding Swimmer of the Meet.

Chapman won the 100-yard and 200-yard butterfly events, meeting the provisional qualifying standards in both cases for the NCAA Division III national championships. She set a new school record for the shorter distance and missed a new school mark in the longer race by just eight one-hundredths of a second.

She also set a new school standard in winning the 200-yard individual medley.

Chapman also enjoyed her share of success in seven regular season dual meets, winning nine individual races while sharing in eight relay victories.

In December, competing at the Northwest Invitational, Chapman won the 100-yard butterfly while also helping the Missionary women capture three relay victories in the two-day meet.

A year ago, Chapman capped her first Missionary season by placing second and third in the two butterfly races at the NWC championships. She also finished eighth in the 50-yard freestyle at that meet.

Regular season highlights for her first swim campaign included first-place finishes in six individual races and 11 relay event victories. She also took first and third in the butterfly events at that year's Northwest Invitational.

Chang (Carson City, Nev.; Carson City HS) also made an impressive showing at February's NWC Championships, setting new school records while placing second in both breaststroke races. He added a fourth-place finish in the 200-yard individual medley, missing a 16-year-old school record in that event by just one-tenth of a second.

Paul Chang

Chang was also part of Missionary relay teams that placed second in two relay events at the championships. In one of those relays, the Whitman quartet was just four one-hundredths of a second off the winning pace.

As a team, Whitman finished a strong third in the men's final team scoring. The Missionary men were within 13 points of second place at one point during the final evening of competition.

As it headed to the championship meet, the men's team also celebrated a big victory outside pool. The College Swimming Coaches Association of America, in handing out its annual academic awards, recognized the Whitman men for having the highest combined grade point average in the nation (NCAA DIII).

Prior to the conference championships, Chang notched six wins in individual races during the dual meet season while also contributing to seven Whitman victories in the relays.

He also registered a strong performance on day one of the Northwest Invitational in December, winning the 100-yard breaststroke, placing second in the 200-yard individual medley, and helping the Missionaries triumph in one of the relay races.

A year ago, Chang polished off his freshman season by placing eighth in the 100-yard backstroke in his first trip to the conference championship meet. He added two 10th-place finishes in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle races.

Earlier in his freshman season, Chang contributed to eight relay victories during the dual meet schedule. He also won three individual races. His best result at that year's Northwest Invitational was a fourth-place finish in the 100-yard freestyle.

Outstanding Performers: First-Year Class

Jillian Davis (volleyball) and Josh Duckworth (basketball), two athletes who garnered regional honors as the top first-year players in their respective sports, and tennis phenom Andrew La Cava are this year's Outstanding Performers for the first-year class.

Davis (El Paso, Texas; Coronado HS) turned heads in the NWC last fall with a powerful swing that generated 378 kills, which led the conference by a wide margin. The versatile 5-foot-9 outside hitter was fifth in the NWC in service aces (28 total) and eighth in digs, averaging 3.67.

Jillian Davis

The first of her post-season awards was a spot on the seven-woman All-NWC First Team. She was the only first-year player receiving that honor.

Next, the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) named Davis as the only first-year player on its All-West Region Team. She also was named regional Freshman of the Year, becoming the first Whitman player to be so honored since the AVCA began giving the award in 1999.

Finally, Davis received Honorable Mention recognition on the AVCA's NCAA Division III All-America Team.

Davis reached double-digit numbers in both kills and digs in 17 of her 26 matches during the season. She fell short of three other double-doubles by one kill or one dig, and she surpassed the 20-kill plateau in six matches, a number that led the NWC.

Davis played two of her best matches last fall in a season series split with Linfield.

After combining 20 kills with 21 digs in a four-game loss at Linfield in early October, she powered Whitman to a 3-2 victory over the Wildcats in late October with 21 kills and 23 digs.

One night after the Linfield victory, Davis led Whitman to a 3-2 victory over Pacific with 17 kills, 19 digs and three service aces.

Based on her performance in the back-to-back matches against Linfield and Pacific, Davis was named NWC Volleyball's Student-Athlete of the Week.

Josh Duckworth (Los Angeles, Calif.; Brentwood School) also proved to be a prime-time player in his first season in a college uniform. The 6-foot-2 guard was front and center in mid-February when the Missionaries outscored Whitworth 17-0 over the final five-plus minutes to hand the previously undefeated (and top-ranked) Pirates their first loss of the season.

Josh Duckworth

With a packed Sherwood Center roaring its approval, Duckworth was simply marvelous, contributing 24 points and eight rebounds -- season-high numbers in both cases -- to Whitman's biggest triumph in at least two decades.

Duckworth nailed a 3-pointer with less than four minutes remaining to spark the monumental comeback. Later, after lofting home another three to tie the game, Duckworth swished two pressure-packed free throws with just 16 seconds remaining to extend Whitman's lead to 82-79, which proved to be the final margin of victory.

Duckworth's big game game just a few hours after he was named NWC Student-Athlete of the Week for his play in two previous victories. He averaged 19.5 points in those games, making 15 of 23 shots from the floor, including four of five tries from the 3-point line.

Earlier in the season, Duckworth returned from a sprained ankle to help Whitman beat Simpson in overtime, finishing with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Duckworth was Whitman's second-leading scorer for the season, averaging 12.6 points per game. He also averaged 3.4 rebounds and was second on the squad in assists and steals.

Duckworth shot 46.7 percent from the floor for the season, which included a 40.7 percentage (17-42) from the 3-point line. In 16 NWC games, he made 13 of 22 (59.1 percent) 3-point shots.

At season's end Duckworth earned All-NWC Honorable Mention recognition. Of the 16 players to get NWC post-season honors (First Team, Second Team, HM), he was the only freshman.

The website also extended its recognition, naming Duckworth as its NCAA Division III West Region Freshman of the Year. He is the first Whitman player to win that award.

Andrew La Cava (Bellevue, Wash.; Seattle Prep) was another first-year athlete who didn't miss a beat in transitioning to college competition. A month after arriving on campus, he sailed through the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) fall tournament, winning both the singles and doubles titles without dropping a set. 

Andrew La Cava

La Cava then held his own at the National Small College Championships in Mobile, Ala., losing a tough three-set decision to a Trinity (Texas) senior who brought tons of national-level experience to the match. La Cava led 5-4 in the decisive third set before his foe held serve twice and picked off a service break to get the win.

The results were similar in the doubles portion of the national championships, where La Cava and junior teammate Conor Holton-Burke lost a razor-thin three-set decision to a pair of Trinity players who were the runners-up at the previous spring's NCAA Division III doubles championships.

After earning ITA All-American honors in the fall, La Cava played a dominant role this spring as Whitman cruised to its fourth consecutive undefeated NWC championship and fifth straight appearance at the NCAA championships.

Playing mostly at No. 2 singles, he rolled to a 14-6 record in singles, including a 9-0 mark against NWC foes. His record in doubles, where he played primarily with Holton-Burke in the No. 1 slot, was 14-8 on the season and 9-1 in conference.

Midway through the spring season, La Cava and Holton-Burke exacted a measure of revenge against the Trinity players who beat them at last fall's national ITA tournament. The return doubles bout, which came during a Spring Break match in California, saw La Cava and Holton-Burke race to an 8-2 victory that helped Whitman score a 5-4 victory over Trinity, the ninth-ranked team in the nation at the time.

It was the highest-ranked team Whitman has beaten in more than two decades. Whitman finished its season with a No. 21 national ranking.

In the latest West Region rankings, La Cava is No. 23 in singles and No. 7 in doubles (with Holton-Burke).

Counting his singles and doubles victories during the fall, La Cava is well on his way to 100 career victories, a plateau reached by relatively few players at Whitman.

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Dave Holden, Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.; (509) 527-5902