The Whitman College Magazine Online
Inside Cover
Magazine Homepage
News, Events, and Athletics
Past Issues

The Last Bastion of the Student Athlete

In 1995 Whitman and its traditional varsity competitors such as Willamette University, Lewis & Clark College, Pacific Lutheran University, and Linfield College affiliated with the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division III. That division is "the last bastion of student athletes," according to Craig Gunsul, Whitman's faculty conference representative since 1978. Students may not receive any financial aid whatsoever based on their athletic ability.

Akshay Shetty, '99: Named to the all-Northwest Conference first team four times in four seasons.
The success of varsity athletics at Whitman continues to be challenged by the College's position as the academically most selective institution in the conference. As Gunsul notes, finding enough Whitman-caliber scholar-athletes to field winning teams in some sports can be difficult. But the College has a tradition of notable team success in such sports as skiing, tennis, and cross-country running.

Last spring, for example, the men's and women's tennis teams won a combined 21 of 24 matches against conference opponents. The women's cross-country running team closed their 1998 season with second place at the NCAA Division III west region meet, just missing a berth in the NCAA national championships. This year's Whitman women runners captured the Northwest conference title. Competing in the U.S. Collegiate Ski Association championships, the Whitman men's and women's alpine and cross-country ski teams have joined forces to win five consecutive all-around national titles.

The Whitman women's cross-country team powered its way to a Northwest Conference championship in late October at McIver Park near Estacada, Oregon. Above, warming up for the final race are Taylor Dale, Heather Koertje, coach Carol Feezell (in sunglasses), Elisa Bobnes, assistant coach Eli Brown, Amanda Havens, Megan Hunter, Kitty Rasmussen, Mary Jo Southwick, and Melissa Thorne, '98, a former member of the team. Partially obscured in the photo are Heather Barr, Karin Pfeiffer-Hoyt, and Stacy St. John. Feezell was honored as Northwest Conference Coach of the Year for women’s cross-country.
In other sports, such as swimming, where Whitman might lack the numbers to compete in the team standings, the College traditionally boasts atleast a few athletes who dominate their individual events. Tucker Jackson, a junior, is the best freestyle swimmer in the Northwest Conference. Last spring, he won two individual event titles at the conference championships.

One of Whitman's most successful competitive sports during the past decade has been men's lacrosse. Lacrosse is a club sport, which means the financial responsibility is split among the athletics department, the Associated Students of Whitman College, and the participants themselves. Lacrosse is the only competitive sport coached by a full time professor from another department, David Schmitz. The Robert Allen Skotheim Professor of History, Schmitz played lacrosse at Roanoke College and then coached at State University of New York, Stony Brook, before he came to Whitman in 1985.

Professor of history and lacrosse coach David Schmitz: His teams have won seven championships.
Under Schmitz's guidance, Whitman's men's lacrosse team has repeatedly climbed to the top in the Northwest Collegiate Lacrosse League, winning seven league or divisional championships in the last 14 years. The title gave the team a bid to a national tournament in Austin, Texas, where several players stood out. Eugene Kang, '99, and Christopher "C. J." Calvert, a junior this year, were named to the all-tournament team, and C. J. also was named MVP of the tournament.

Lacrosse "made a big difference" for Kang, who started his first year at Whitman "not knowing what lacrosse is" and ended his senior year as captain of the team. "I've always played sports, but when I came to Whitman I didn't do anything the first semester except study. Then I started playing lacrosse. I was really bad at first, but I got better and better. When you do well like that it builds your confidence and character."