Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 3
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Jan Start athletes find their place in Whitman sports

As difficult as it can be for January Start students to break into Whitman’s social and academic scene halfway through the school year, a few of these new Whitties have taken on the additional commitment of becoming winter varsity athletes, jumping right into the season with their new teammates.

After arriving on campus just two weeks before classes started, Olivia Bates, a varsity tennis player from Edmonds, Wash., played in her first collegiate match with her new team against Eastern Washington University–a Division I school–Saturday, Jan. 22.

“We haven’t even had our first practice yet,” she said, “but we all played great–I love the team. They’re a great group of girls, and have been really welcoming to me as a Jan Start.”

Women’s tennis coach John Hein and her teammates have played key roles in helping Bates settle into college life as an athlete and student.

“Olivia has a focused yet fun demeanor that really fits in on our team,” said Hein. “She’s off to a great start, and I trust the rest of the team to welcome, support and integrate her into our system as a new teammate.”

Bates was not the only new player on the court last weekend: junior Lizzy Schiller has also acted as a source of friendship and guidance in the last few weeks.

“I feel like I’m particularly close to Lizzy because she’s new to the team too but she can also tell me about Whitman,” said Bates.

Bates spent the fall semester earning money to pay for school by working two retail jobs, which had her pulling 15-hour days five days a week. Keeping her eye on the goal of  coming to Whitman, she lived frugally and worked tirelessly.

“It’s going to be absolutely worth it, I know. I already love it here,” she said.

While Bates gets used to her new home in Walla Walla, Jan start basketball player DJ Wright has already been living here for two years. A native of Orofino, Idaho, Wright found the opportunity to continue playing basketball after high school at Walla Walla Community College (WWCC), where he enrolled and played for two seasons.

Last spring, a series of chance events led him to men’s basketball coach Eric Bridgeland’s office, where he learned he would be able to transfer and play on the varsity basketball team starting the following winter.

“Of course I wanted to come here, seeing as it’s one of the top schools in the country and I can play [basketball]. But it had never been part of my plan,” said Wright. The 6’5 biophysics, biochemistry and molecular biology major is now on track to graduate with the class of 2013.

To familiarize himself with the team and his future teammates, Wright spent all of last semester’s practices sitting on the sidelines, watching the Whitman men play.

“It was my choice to come watch practices. I just wanted to let them know I was here for the team,” he said.

Finally eligible to play on December 18, Wright squeezed in just two practices before he was put on the court during a tournament in Arizona with the team in late December.

“I think it is very tough for Jan Starts to get accustomed to our style of play and practice tempo. But [DJ] seems to learn and apply his knowledge to the court very quickly, which is great because we are deep into our season and there isn’t much time to explain each detail,” reflected teammate junior David Michaels.

After a semester of working a concessions stand at WWCC and sitting in on Whitman practices, Wright is just glad to be playing with his team.

“I’m having a ton of fun right now. Getting to finally suit up, it was a pretty good feeling,” he said.

Although joining a team already in motion has its challenges, both Bates and Wright have found that being athletes has actually helped ease their transition to Whitman. With instant common ground on the court, their teammates and coaches have proven to be a valuable source of kinship and support.

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