The Final Countdown: Seniors Reflect on their Time as Athletes at Whitman

Susanna Williams, Staff Reporter

With the final athletic seasons of the year winding down, and the academic year soon to come to a close, now is the time for the Class of 2018 to reflect on their time here at Whitman. For athletes, this is especially bittersweet given that for most, this time also coincides with a realization that they are coming to the end, if not already have ended, their careers as competitive athletes. The Wire spoke with seniors who reflected on their years as Blues: Emma Bishop, lacrosse; Noah Schlenk, swimming; Noah Cavanaugh, soccer; and Tim Howell, basketball.

Whitman Wire: How does it feel to be coming to the end of your last year at Whitman? How does being an athlete here play into the feelings you are having about the end of this year?

Noah Schlenk: It feels pretty nice. I’ve been swimming since I was 2 and after 19 years it feels good to be finished with that chapter of my life and headed towards new things. Academically it’s a similar feeling of being ready to try something that doesn’t require me to take finals. It’s really just a lot of relaxation and acceptance for me.

Noah Cavanaugh: I love it here in Walla Walla, but I’m also really excited to move on to bigger and better things! It’s hard to think of what college would be like without all the friends I’ve made playing soccer and having time with both my team and the women’s team. More than anything I’ll miss the game days, training sessions, and hang outs that we all had together.

WW: What was it like to compete for the last time?

Emma Bishop: It felt a bit surreal. I am different from many other varsity athletes at Whitman though, because I started playing lacrosse while here. I can’t image what it must be like to finish playing a sport that one has been competing in for say 8 or 10 years. During my last game my brain kept switching in and out of a competitive mindset, I noticed that I just kept stepping back and trying to absorb and recognize the moment.

NS: Relieving with a hint of sadness. There’s a lot of appreciation for being able to make it this far without a traumatic injury, and it’s always hard to move on from something you’ve given so much time and energy to for so much of your life. It’s strange to think that things will never be the same in terms of intensity and sacrifice, yet the fact that you won’t be pushing yourself to the point of injury anymore is also a relieving feeling.

NC: It was pretty incredible. I’m fortunate enough to be able to continue playing and go professional, so my last game was sad just in the sense that I wouldn’t play on the Whitman field and with the boys again.

WW: How has being an athlete here at Whitman impacted your college experience overall?

EB: Being an athlete at Whitman greatly improved my college experience. I came to Whitman with no intention of playing a varsity sport, my hope had been to embrace intramural sports. By the middle of my first semester, however, I knew something was missing. I missed the community that a team provides, and decided to reach out to the new lacrosse coach in the hopes of finding that community again. Evidently that meeting went well. The women’s lacrosse team has provided such a great community and environment for me to both push myself and find solace within. The organization practice adds to my schedule, the mental benefits of being active for at least two hours a day, and the friendships formed all made varsity athletics a really critical aspect of my Whitman experience.

NC: Playing a sport in college was a great choice, and I would not have it any other way. It’s easy to say that life would be just fine without the soccer team and all that, but I do believe that it was the best experience I’ve had in college. Those are the memories I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Tim Howell: Being an athlete has impacted my college experience in so many ways. I felt I was viewed as a leader on and off the court, especially within the Walla Walla community which was also an amazing experience.

NS: It gave me a friend group to support me, and provided an area in my life that forced me to be good at managing my time efficiently. My path without athletics would probably have led me to very different people and a very different experience and I’m fairly satisfied with the experience I had going down the athletics path.

WW: If you could do it all again, would you choose to be an athlete? Why or why not?

EB:  It can be hard, but the benefits definitely outweigh the challenges. The memories made with my team while traveling, my growth as an individual and member of a team, and the many other aspects of playing a sport are worth the effort.

TH: Yes, I would be an athlete all over again, because I have such a passion for the game. During my four years as a collegiate athlete, I’ve made so many great friends, met lots of new people, learned life long lessons on and off the court, and was able to inspire and be inspired by others which was something that was special to me.

NS: Of course. Having swam 15 years leading up to college I would have regretted it forever if I didn’t finish out my last four years of competitive swimming. It gave me discipline and kept me healthy through the most stressful times of college.

As these athletes approach graduation, they are all making plans for the future. Schlenk is planning on working as a PT Aid for a year or 2 before attending Doctor of Physical Therapy School. Bishop hopes to work at a law firm or consulting firm for the next few years before attending law school. Both Cavanaugh and Howell intend to continue their careers by pursuing their sports professionally, with Cavanaugh already lined up to play overseas. In the long run, however, Cavanaugh intends to go back to school to get his doctorate and become a chiropractor.