Men's Swim Team Tops Nation in GPA

News Release Date:
Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- The Whitman College men's swim team scored an impressive victory in the classroom a year ago, placing second nationally in NCAA Division III with a combined grade point (GPA) average of 3.52.

This year, the Missionary men elevated their team GPA just a bit to 3.55, but that was enough to make Whitman No. 1 among all Division III teams in the country.

Jenn Blomme

The College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) gives its Team Scholar All-America awards each year at this time, based on grades from the fall semester.

"We are so proud of this accomplishment," Whitman swim coach Jenn Blomme says. "Considering the long hours swimmers put into their training, and the rigorous academic demands of Whitman, it is no small feat for our large men's team to post the highest GPA in the country.

"Ultimately, this is beautiful evidence of what Division III athletics, and more specifically Whitman athletics, are all about, which is the true scholar-athlete," she adds. "On our team we take very seriously the importance of striving for success in the classroom as well as in the pool."

Swim teams, male or female, must have a combined team GPA of at least 3.0 to earn the CSCAA's Scholar All-America designation.

The Whitman women's team also qualified this year with a team GPA of 3.35.

The Whitman men, after trailing only Oberlin College last year, finished just above Pomona-Pitzer and Emory University on the lastest list of NCAA DIII GPA leaders. Pomona-Pitzer and Emory tied for second place at 3.52 with Vassar College taking fourth at 3.44.

Other schools in the men's Top Ten include Oberlin, Carnegie Mellon, Colorado College and Washington University (St. Louis).

Brian Wakefield
Nick Wood

Not only did the Whitmen men top all schools in NCAA Division III, they combined to post a team GPA that was higher than all schools in NCAA Division I, and higher than all but one school in Division II.

Ohio's University of Findlay, which shows just three men on its swim roster, led Division II with a 3.69 team GPA.

Whitman had 20 men on its fall semester swim roster, including six seniors.

One of the six, Brian Wakefield, was honored last spring by the Whitman Athletics Department for having one of the top five GPAs among all varsity athletes.

Wakefield, a graduate of Philomath (Ore.) High School, is majoring in biology with minors in chemistry and Spanish. He is writing his senior thesis on research he did last summer at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. His research involved preliminary tests of a new chemotherapy for treating pancreatic cancer.

Jamie Nusse
Chad Trexler

Wakefield plans to pursue medical school studies in a few years with a eye on a possible career as an orthopedic surgeon.

The six seniors also include captains Nick Wood and Jamie Nusse.

Wood, a graduate of Campolindo High School in Moraga, Calif., has a double major in Environmental Humanities (EH) and Rhetoric and Film Studies (RHS). One possible career interest is film editing.

Wood is writing his EH thesis about "The Unnatural History of the Swimming Pool," which looks at what he calls the "technification" of competitive swimming. His RHS thesis, titled "Changing the Rhetorical Function of the Wildlife Host," is about the late Steve Irwin and his effect on the nature genre.

Nusse, a graduate of Henry Gunn High School in Palo Alto, Calif., is a history major. His orals project (similar to a thesis), titled "Movies, Television, and Tapestries: Authority and Culture in 11th Century England, Vietnam-era United States, and Revolutionary Cuba," is a comparative study of how authority manipulates and directs cultural production.

Nate Wells
Eliot Stone

The remaining three seniors are Chad Trexler, Nate Wells and Eliot Stone.

Wells, a graduate of Kamiak High School in Mukilteo, Wash., is a double major in philosophy and mathematics. He is writing his senior thesis on "The Theory of Henstock Integration" and planning to attend graduate school in mathematics.

Trexler, a graduate of Reno (Nev.) High School, is majoring in geology. His thesis is tentatively titled "Brittle Structures Within Crystalline Rocks of the Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming."

His thesis is based on data he collected last summer in the Bighorns as part of a project funded by the Keck Geology Consortium. His study looks at topography and faults in the Bighorns as they relate to the Laramide Orogeny, which was the mountain-building event that created the modern Rocky Mountains.

Trexler is under consideration for a position this summer as education specialist at Mt. Rainier National Park. After that, he plans to pursue graduate studies in geology and eventually work in the education or research fields.

Stone, a graduate of South Eugene (Ore.) High School, is majoring in astronomy.

For his senior thesis, Stone is taking photos of the variable star Delta Cephei and analyzing them with IRAF software to determine the star's period.

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