Trio of Whitman Athletes Earn Academic All-District Honors

News Release Date:
Friday, May 18, 2012

WALLA WALLA, Wash. - A trio of Whitman College student athletes -- senior Conor Holton-Burke and juniors Helen Jenne and Alyssa Roberg -- have earned Capitol One Academic All-District honors and are now eligible for Academic All-America recognition.

Holton-Burke, who helped the men's tennis team rocket this spring to its highest national ranking in more than two decades, is one of 11 NCAA Division III athletes named to the District 8 At-Large Team.

The At-Large Team represents a number of sports, including tennis, swimming, golf, ice hockey and wrestling.

Meanwhile, Roberg (tennis) and Jenne (swimming) give Whitman two athletes on the women's District 8 At-Large Team.

District 8 represents DIII schools in 21 western states, stretching from Hawaii and Alaska to as far east as Texas, Louisiana and Iowa.

Roberg, this spring's Northwest Conference Player of the Year, led the women's tennis team to its first-ever trip to the national championship tournament.

Jenne, who holds school records in two freestyle sprints and shares four relay records, sparked the women's swim team to a second-place finish during the NWC dual meet season.

Athletes on all-district at-large teams from around the nation are now eligible for election to the Academic All-America team. That voting takes place next week.

The College Sports Information Directors of America administers the nominating and voting process for the Academic All-America program, which is in its sixth decade and has honored thousands students at all levels for all recognized NCAA sports.

Conor Holton-Burke

Holton-Burke, one of two seniors on the men's tennis roster this spring, led Whitman to a 21-5 season that included a sixth straight trip to the NCAA Division III national championships.

Whitman won 19 straight matches at one point spring, rising to as high as No. 8 nationally and No. 1 regionally in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings. The winning streak included victories over national powers UC-Santa Cruz, Trinity (Texas) and the University of Mary Washington.

Conor Holton-Burke

Holton-Burke and Adriel Borshansky, the only seniors on the roster, helped Whitman continue its recent domination of the Northwest Conference. Whitman won its fifth straight conference crown and ran its NWC regular season winning streak of 90. Its last loss was in April 2006.

Holton-Burke, the 2011 NWC Player of the Year, made the All-NWC First Team this spring for the second time in two years. A two-time ITA All-American, he recently received the 2012 Borleske Trophy, which is given annually to the top male athlete at Whitman in recognition of athletic accomplishment, leadership and sportsmanship qualities, and contributions to the campus as a whole.

With Whitman's roster brimming with talent, Holton-Burke bounced between the top three spots in singles this spring while posting a 15-6 record (8-1 NWC). He played most of the season at No. 1 doubles, teaming with junior Matt Tesmond for a 17-8 record (10-1 NWC).

Holton-Burke and Tesmond won last fall's doubles title at the annual Pacific Northwest ITA regional championship tournament. 

Holton-Burke, a biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology major, entered his final semester with a near perfect 3.97 grade point average (4.0). That is the highest cumulative GPA among Whitman's varsity athletes.

He is the only member of his Whitman graduating class who was elected as a junior to Phi Beta Kappa, the highly selective national academic honor society.

Holton-Burke based his senior thesis on work he did last summer in the laboratory of Dr. Xuedong Liu at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where his research focused on development of small-molecule cancer-fighting drugs aimed at preventing degradation of tumor-suppressing proteins.

He plans to stay at Whitman next year as an assistant tennis coach while he applies for medical school and/or Ph.D. programs. He is a graduate of Boulder (Colo.) High School.

Helen Jenne

With Jenne winning two freestyle sprint races in a late January double-dual meet against Puget Sound and Whitworth, the Whitman women's swim team outscored Puget Sound to finish second in the final regular season standings.

Helen Jenne

Her regular season efforts included first-place swims in six of seven 50-yard freestyle races. She also won five races at the 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle distances.

Jenne continued to excel at the NWC Championships, placing fourth in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle events, setting new school records in both races. She also contributed to new school standards in four relay races.

Jenne, who is majoring in both psychology and mathematics, has a 3.91 gpa, which ranks her in the top five among Whitman's varsity athletes.

As part of a research experience class last semester with Whitman associate professor or Melissa Clearfield, Jenne and three of her classmates studied the effects of socioeconomic status on infant manual exploration. They presented their findings this spring at Whitman's Undergraduate Conference.

After spending last summer at the Summer Mathematics Program for Undergraduate Women at Carleton College, Jenne heads to Mount Holyoke College this summer as part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates focused on mathematical and statistical applications to real world problems.

Jenne spent her most recent Spring Break on a Whitman-sponsored Relief and Rebuilding Service Trip to New Orleans. She was part of a similar trip to Tennessee a year ago.

In addition to volunteering with Whitman's Storytime Project, Jenne has lived in the campus Community Service Interest House, helping with such projects as local stream restoration. 

Jenne is a graduate of Shorewood High School in Shoreline, Wash

Alyssa Roberg

After earning spots on the All-NWC First Team in her first two seasons, Roberg capped her junior campaign this spring with player-of-the-year honors while leading the Missionaries to an 18-5 record and their first-ever trip to the NCAA Division III national championship tournament.

Alyssa Roberg

Whitman reeled off 11 straight matches at one point in the season, eventually breaking into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) national rankings and climbing to No. 7 in the West Region. The Missionaries won the NWC post-season tournament and then picked off a first-round victory in the NCAAs before falling in the second round.

Roberg played most of the dual-match season in the top spots in Whitman's line-up, posting records of 11-1 in singles and 14-4 in doubles.

In the latest ITA West Region rankings, Roberg is No. 2 in singles and joins first-year teammate Courtney Lawless for a No. 2 ranking in doubles.

Both Roberg and Lawless are among the 32 players invited to the NCAA DIII National Singles Championships, which take place next week. The Missionary duo are also slotted into the 16-team doubles championship bracket.

Roberg got her junior year off to a rousing start last fall, winning both the singles and doubles (with Lawless) titles at the annual Pacific Northwest ITA regional championship tournament.

Roberg, who has a 3.59 gpa at Whitman, is a psychology major and pursuing a education minor. She hopes to volunteer or work in an autism center this summer and plans a career in special education or researching teaching methods that work best for special needs children in mainstream classrooms.

She volunteers at Whitman in its youth mentoring and Adopt-A-Grandparent programs. At home in Scotts Valley, Calif., she has volunteered for several years with the Furry Friends Pet-Assisted Therapy Services program, taking her dog to nursing homes to spend time with residents.

Roberg is a graduate of Santa Cruz (Calif.) High School.

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CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902; holden@whitman.edu

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