WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Laura Valaas, who capped a superlative Nordic ski career at Whitman College by placing fourth in the freestyle race at the NCAA National Championships in March, has earned Academic All-American honors.

A May graduate of Whitman, Valaas was named to ESPN The Magazine’s College Division At-Large Second Team. The At-Large Team represents student-athletes in a variety of sports, including skiing, tennis, swimming, golf, lacrosse, field hockey and gymnastics. The College Division includes all schools in NCAA Divisions II and III as well as all NAIA-affiliated schools.

Valaas, who graduated magna cum laude, majored in applied mathematics with minors in physics and gender studies. Her post-Whitman plans include pursuit of a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering. She also plans to continue her athletic career as an elite skier with an eye on making the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team.

Valaas is the second Whitman athlete to earn Second Team Academic All-American honors for the 2005-06 academic year. Hillary Chisholm, a senior defender, was named last fall to the second team for women’s soccer.

The College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) administers the Academic All-America program, which is in 54th year and has honored more than 14,000 students at all levels for all recognized NCAA sports.

Valaas enjoyed a strong senior season on the ski slopes. She got off to a quick start in January, placing third against a field of Olympic Team hopefuls in the freestyle sprint at the U.S. Nationals.

She also became the first U.S.-born athlete in nearly two years to win a women’s Nordic race at an NCAA Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) event. European skiers competing for U.S. schools have dominated the RMISA women’s Nordic races in recent years.

She missed part of the RMISA season while representing the U.S. at the Under-23 World Cross Country Championships in Kranj, Slovakia, where she placed 14th in the freestyle sprint.

Competing in March against an international field at the NCAA Championships (Divisions 1, II, III), Valaas placed fourth in the 15-kilometer freestyle, earning All-American honors for the third time in her college career.

Earlier this spring, Valaas earned Academic All-District honors for the second consecutive season. Whitman is part of a district comprised of nine states and British Columbia.

Following the ski season, Valaas helped the Whitman Cycling Club win its second consecutive National College Cycling Association Division II national championship. She placed fourth in the two individual races and was part of Whitman’s winning team time trial entry.

Valaas, a graduate of Wenatchee (Wash.) High School, is the daughter of Susan and Peter Valaas of Wenatchee. Peter Valaas is a 1975 Whitman graduate.