Excitement for upcoming year of athletics grows as seasons wrap up

Tucker Grinnan, Sports Reporter

As various varsity sports teams wrap up their seasons, and rosters are finalized for the coming year, coaches and incoming first-years are beginning to think about fall 2021.

It’s usually around this time in the spring semester when coaches hear back from the last of their possible commits on whether or not they will be joining the team in the fall. Brian Kitamura, head baseball coach and interim lacrosse coach, still has a few potential commits he is waiting to hear on, but he is beginning to get a more concrete picture of what the fall will look like.

“Right now our focus remains on the field,” Kitamura said. “But, at the same time, we are definitely planning for next year.”

For Kitamura’s baseball team, the incoming class will be a little bit larger than usual as several players are contending with long-term injuries creating a need for multiple players for several key positions. Despite the unknowns of new faces and old injuries, he is excited at the team’s potential.

“We’re going to be pretty young next year,” Kitamura said. “But, it will be great to have a very foundational young group get to learn from upperclassmen who have been through a lot of adversity with COVID-19, but then have also seen a high level of baseball.”

For their part, many student-athletes from the incoming class are excited to get on campus. They want to make an impact on their teams and find a home at Whitman.

Hannah Hagler, an incoming first year on the women’s soccer team, is no stranger to Whitman’s campus or culture. Both of her parents are alumni and she has visited Walla Walla on several occasions. She attributes her early commitment to her prior experiences with both the town and the college, as well as the ability to pursue both her academic and athletic pursuits at a high level.

“I grew up around Whitman’s campus, so it always felt comfortable and like home to me,” Hagler said. “[Academically and athletically speaking] It seemed like the best of both worlds.”

Through her recent visits, Hagler has gotten to know the team well and can already see herself, and her fellow classmates, contributing to their future success.

“I’ve gotten a chance to talk, or at least text, with the other recruits and they are all super excited to add to the Whitman community and the soccer team,” Hagler said. “[Our class] will provide a lot of new and excited energy to the team, so I’m hoping next year we can jump up in our conference.”

Ellis Pryor, an incoming first year on the men’s cross country and track team, expressed similar excitement for the fall but also reminisced on an era of his life coming to an end.

“It’s definitely a little bittersweet because I’ve lived in the same town my whole life, it’s hard to say goodbye. But, I’m also excited to be in a new place — to be on the team and meet new people,” Pryor said.

Pryor feels confident that he will have the support he needs during the transition into college life, particularly from his teammates and coaches.

“It feels good to know that I’ll have other people [already at Whitman] who care about me and want me to do well in school,” Pryor said.