Incoming athletes reveal why they chose Whitman

Sam Patterson, Campus Life Reporter

A new generation of athletes is preparing for a career in Whitman sports. High school seniors from far and wide have committed to compete as a Whittie; they are set to begin their journey next fall. The recruits shared an eagerness to compete for the Blues, providing a refreshing spark to their respective teams. 

Michael Lee Tran, a senior at Federal Way High School, described his zeal for joining Whitman Soccer and repping its colors. 

“There are a few things that I am excited about. [I’m] stoked and ready to play for Whitman. I can’t wait to start training and wearing the Whitman badge,” Tran said. “I was able to get a Whitman sweatshirt a couple days ago, and I’m super happy about that.”

Athletes talked about a variety of reasons for this newfound excitement. Gage Hembree, a current senior at Dripping Springs High School near Austin, Texas, discussed his decision to swim at Whitman next year.

“I knew that I wanted to swim at a smaller school, and I knew that the Pacific Northwest was the region I wanted to be in,” Hembree said. “I was able to visit campus twice over the last year or so. I came and did an official recruiting trip back in September and just fell in love with the school and got to meet everyone on the team – it was just an awesome experience. That was really what made the difference for me.”

Not only was Hembree gratified about the individuals he met who will comprise his soon-to-be team, he was also impressed with the environment created by the squad as a whole. 

“I think I’m most excited just about the team atmosphere that I saw when I was there … I remembered the atmosphere at the practice I was able to go watch was just so good, and all of the swimmers were so supportive of each other and wanted everyone to do well,” Hembree said. “You could tell that the team spirit was there, and they were competing as a team, even though swimming can be very individual sometimes.”

On top of being satisfied with the team members and the team culture, incoming athletes often indicate the importance of a team’s coaching staff in making a commitment decision.

Whitman Baseball commit Russell Peterson, a current senior at Ida B. Wells High School in Portland, Oregon, spoke to his appreciation of Whitman baseball’s coaching staff. 

“I could tell that there are coaches who will really care for me in the program. [They] care for not only my development in baseball, but also in the classroom,” Peterson said.

Athletes also shared their draws to the school and surrounding area for reasons outside of their official sport, particularly the close proximity and widespread relevance of outdoor recreation at Whitman. Peterson spoke to this common passion encouraged by many organizations within Whitman. 

“I’m kind of an ‘outdoorsy’ person; I like to fish and ski … I know [there is] a culture of that there with clubs,” Peterson said. 

Hembree mirrored this attitude, eager to explore the new region surrounding Walla Walla.

“I love Austin, but I love to snowboard. I love to backpack and do stuff outside. We don’t have any mountains here,” Hembree said. 

Whitman’s incoming class displays enthusiasm to fight for the Blues. The rest of the Division III NCAA Northwest conference should be trembling in the wake of the many talented athletes set to join Whitman’s ranks.