Whitman College inducts five grads into athletics Hall of Fame

Former mid-distance runner John Leier still lives in Walla Walla.


WALLA WALLA - Their athletic experiences range from baseball in the 1930s, golf in the 1960s and track and field in the 1970s to volleyball and soccer in the 1980s, but the five former greats inducted into the Whitman College Athletics Hall of Fame Saturday are bound by a common thread.

All were conference champions, individually or as part of a team.

Four of the five honored at Saturday's induction ceremonies and reception in the Sherwood Center Hall of Fame foyer.

John Leier '74

One of the greatest middle distance runners in the history of Whitman track and field, Leier qualified for the NAIA National Championships in the 880-yard run to cap each of his last two seasons.

Leier placed sixth at nationals as a junior and was third as a senior in 1974. He clocked a time of 1:49.7 at the 1974 meet, beating Kenya's Michael Boit, a bronze medalist at the 1972 Olympics, in the process.

Leier won the 880 at the NWC championship meets in both 1973 (1:52.7) and 1974 (1:52.2), and he still holds the NWC meet record at 1:51.5 (800-mete r equivalent).

He also holds or shares Whitman school records in the 800 meters (1:48.5) and sprint medley relay (3:27.5).

Leier came to Whitman as a Washington state high school champion at the 440-yard distance, but hamstring injuries plagued his first two college seasons. His best 440 time (48.4) as a sophomore was faster than the winning time in that event at the NWC meet in each of his first two seasons.

Leier was the 1974 winner of the R.V. Borleske Trophy, given annually to the top male athlete at Whitman.

He majored in history and anthropology at Whitman and is an environmental resources specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Walla Walla.

Pete Jonas '38

Arguably the best pitcher to ever throw the horsehide for Whitman, Jonas was the staff ace on Missionary teams that played for the Northwest Conference title in four straight seasons and won three crowns.

As a senior in 1938, Jonas twirled a three-hit shutout that helped Whitman dominate the post-season tournament.

The Missionaries won each of their four playoff games that season, outscoring the opposition 24-4, to finish the season with a 33-6 record.

Whitman stormed to the 1937 NWC championship by winning three straight postseason games, one of them a Jonas four-hit shutout.

Del Rankin '70

As consistent as he was excellent on the golf course, Del Rankin is the only Whitman golfer to earn All-Northwest Conference honors in four successive years.

He also capped each of his four seasons by helping the Missionaries bring home an NWC championship trophy.

Rankin earned all-conference honors each year by posting one of the top five scores at the championship tournament. His best individual performance came in 1969 at the Tualatin Country Club near Portland, Ore., where he captured medalist honors and led Whitman to a 24-stroke victory over its nearest competitor.

Jonas died in 2005 in Spokane.

Kristin Richel Goodwin '88

One of Whitman's most decorated volleyball athletes, Kristin Richel Goodwin is the only Missionary volleyball player to be voted three times to the All-Northwest Conference First Team.

Richel, an outside hitter, earned first-team honors at the conclusion of the 1985, 1986 and 1987 seasons, a time span that marked the first three years that women's volleyball was governed by the NWC.

As a first-year player, Richel helped the Missionaries capture a Women's Conference of Independent Colleges title in the fall of 1984, which was that organization's final year of existence. Whitman nearly duplicated its championship run during Richel's sophomore season in 1985, finishing second in the NWC standings.

Keri Hall Greenheck '88

More than two decades after her graduation, Keri Hall Greenheck still holds the single-season and career scoring records for women's soccer at Whitman.

Hall made an immediate impact as a first-year player in the fall of 1984, sparking the Missionaries to the Women's Conference of Independent Colleges championship while topping the team in scoring and earning a spot on the All-WCIC Team.

Whitman finished that season with win-loss-tie records of 11-3-2 (overall) and 7-1-2 (WCIC).

Hall also led Whitman in scoring in her final three seasons, when women's soccer was brought under the auspices of the Northwest Conference. She capped each of those seasons with All-NWC First-Team honors.

Hall scored goals in bunches, getting four in one game on three different occasions. She also booted hat tricks in back-to-back games during her first season.

Her 22 goals in 16 games during the fall of 1986 stands as Whitman's single-season scoring record. While records are incomplete, she finished her career with more than 70 goals.

Noted for the tenacity and ferocity of her play on the field, as well as for her game sense and leadership skills, Hall served as a team captain as a senior.

After Whitman, Hall earned her law degree and worked as an attorney in both the San Diego and Seattle areas.


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