New coaches bring excitement, perspective to Whitman athletics

Alec Rainsford, Staff reporter

An influx of energy and excitement has hit the Whitman College athletic department in recent years. Four new head coaches have taken leadership of their respective programs in the last two years, bringing positive energy and a wealth of experience with them. Kate Robinson (Women’s lacrosse) and Laura Williamson (Women’s soccer) are entering their second season as head coaches, while Jose Cedeno (Men’s soccer) and Brian Kitamura (Baseball) have commenced their first years of head coaching here at Whitman. Change is always difficult, but in the case of these four coaches the transition seems to be going seamlessly, as each seems to be a great fit for both Whitman and their respective programs.  

Coach Robinson has had an especially unique transition to her head coaching position at Whitman. Upon coming to Whitman, Robinson oversaw the transition of Women’s Lacrosse from a club sport to the varsity a level; no easy task. Instead of shying away from the arduous task, Robinson embraced it.

The chance to start a program is not something a coach in their career gets to do.  With the support of the administration, other coaches and community about adding lacrosse, I was really encouraged about taking on this process,” she said.  

Along with the support of the community, Robinson has had the full support of the players, making the transition seamless from the very beginning.

“The transition from club to varsity status has been going very well so far. I give all credit to the group of players I started here with. They are excited about the future of this program are willing to grow and get better everyday,” Robinson said.

Coach Williamson of women’s soccer has similarly had an easy transition to leading Whitman College. Williamson came to Whitman after a very successful stint as head coach at Vassar College. Whitman strongly appealed to Williamson because of the support the school is currently showing for athletics and the promising opportunity for rapid growth as a program. The transition for Williams was clearly a successful one, as she immediately led the team to a winning record and fourth place finish in conference. Williamson has also had to make an adjustment to the demanding Northwest Conference schedule.

“It’s a tough conference because anybody can beat anybody, and so you always have to be on top of your game,” she said.  

Heading up the men’s soccer program is Jose Cedeno. Cedeno comes to Whitman after a successful role coaching Hunter College in New York. At Hunter, Cedeno was named the coach of the year in the conference, and his teams earned two berths to the division three national tournament. Whitman’s academic reputation was a big selling point for Cedeno, as he knew it would be a great pitch for recruits and would contribute to a great Division Three college experience for his players.  Although he came to Whitman very recently, Cedeno has not wasted time getting the Whitman Soccer name out there to prospective recruits, attending ten tournaments in just over two months. Further adding to Cedeno’s smooth transition are the captains he inherited in the program, discussing how they have been great leaders and significantly eased his transition.  

Rounding out the new head coaches is Brian Kitamura, who will lead the baseball program after five seasons as an assistant coach. Kitamura, a Whitman baseball alumnus himself, began coaching at Whitman immediately after graduating.  Kitamura’s experience in the program has aided in his successful transition from assistant to head coach.

The transition into my new role has been exciting. Having this opportunity to build the program at my alma mater is one that is incredibly special and to be able to give back in this capacity is an opportunity I would jump at every time,” he said.

Kitamura also cited his players as making the transition more feasible.

“We have a great group this year. The hard work and dedication that our team has put in has helped make this transition process even smoother. I couldn’t be more excited for the future of our program,” he said.

Excitement builds in the Whitman College athletic department, surrounding these driven, dedicated coaches.