Student athlete slam dunks the standards

Senior considers his first-team academic All-American honor finest accolade

Four years ago, Felix Friedt had hardly heard of Whitworth. Four years later, the senior center for the Whitworth basketball team has been named the Male Athlete of the Year by The Whitworthian sports section staff.

Friedt was quick to give the credit to his team.

“This honor is more a reflection of a team accomplishment,” Friedt said. “I couldn’t do it by myself or [without] the people who came before me.”

Friedt’s senior season was the exclamation point to an already stellar Whitworth career, on and off the court. He led the Pirates to their sixth consecutive NCAA Division III tournament and their third Sweet 16 appearance in four years. Following an impressive post-season performance, the 6-foot-8 German native was named Second Team All-West Region and received Third Team All-West Region honors. In addition, he was named First Team All-Northwest Conference.

Behind the scenes, Friedt has worked hard for his accomplishments. Junior point guard and teammate Wade Gebbers recalled Friedt’s dedication in the weight room and his intense work ethic, such as doing curls for an hour straight.

“The reason he does that is because of his determination to be great,” Gebbers said. “He has that determination but follows up on it and you can see that in everything he does, whether it’s playing or in school.”

When Friedt wasn’t in the Fieldhouse or the weight room, he hit the books. The economics and international business double major said despite the plethora of other awards he has received this year, being honored as First Team Academic All-American is his proudest accomplishment.

“He has left one of the best examples of a student athlete that he could leave,” Gebbers said.

First year head basketball coach Matt Logie recalled a particular weekend during conference play when Friedt’s dedication to athletics, academics and his resilience stood out. Whitworth traveled to Newberg, Ore., to play George Fox on a Friday night. Early Saturday morning, Friedt left the team and drove three hours to take a standardized test for graduate school entrance and drove three hours back to Portland, Ore., to arrive about 90 minutes before tip off that night at Lewis & Clark. Friedt was also nursing a sprained ankle. Nevertheless, the anchor for the Bucs put up a double-double that night.

“To be able to will himself through all of that, that was very impressive as a coach,” Logie said of the weekend.

Friedt averaged upwards of 16 points a game for the Bucs, scoring over 500 points on this past season. That number is nearly half of his career 1130, which places him 13th among Whitworth’s all-time leading scorers. Friedt sunk 200 shots from behind the charity stripe this season, maintaining a free-throw shooting percentage of over 80 percent.

Still, Friedt was adamant that the year was not about him. His team came first. He specifically mentioned the drastic changes to the Whitworth coaching personnel and roster coming into the year.

“As a team, I thought it was great how much we came together, facing a coaching change at the beginning of the year,” Friedt said.  “Some people questioned if we could repeat what we did the year before because we lost a great deal of players. [This year] we had a great record, we won a conference championship, we went on the road and swept Texas [in the national tournament], all of those will be things I’ll remember forever.”

Logie commended Friedt on his efforts to make the coaching transition as smooth as possible.

“The biggest challenge that we faced together was just the adversity of having to learn a new offense, new defense, and build relationships with new coaches,” Logie said. “That’s a lot to ask of somebody going into their senior year. He handled it about as well as anybody could handle it.”

In his Whitworth Fieldhouse finale, Friedt drained a trey in the opening moments of the game, which was followed by an outburst of elation from the stands. He says it was his favorite moment of the year. “I’ll definitely miss playing in front of the fans, the crowd,” Friedt said. “Comparing it [to] any other place, this was the best place to play at.”

Friedt is an outstanding student and athlete, but even more than that, he is a teammate. The past three years, his team voted him best teammate.

“He might come off as just this seven-foot monster, but he genuinely cares about his teammates,” Gebbers said. “Felix is a big teddy bear.”

After graduation, Friedt plans to get married and attend graduate school at the University of Oregon to earn a Ph.D. in economics.

“I think on a national level [Felix] was about as productive of a basketball player as you could have,” Logie said. “At the same time I think he just displayed exemplary leadership and was a standout student in the classroom. I think he really exemplifies the male student athlete of the year award and what it should stand for.”

 

Story by Sena Hughes Staff Writer

Photographer: Tanner Scholten

 

Contact Sena Hughes at shughes15@my.whitworth.edu.

Senior Kaimi Rocha leaves strong legacy

Pirates senior outside hitter led conference in multiple offensive categories

Whitworth head volleyball coach Steve Rupe said that senior Kaimi Rocha might be the hardest-working player he has coached in his 14 years at Whitworth.

“When we talked about [how] it’s time to work hard and practice hard; she was always working hardest and practicing hardest,” Rupe said. “There was never an off day for her.”

Despite being described as friendly, fun, happy and approachable, the 5-foot-9 outside hitter is a monster on the volleyball court.

Her humility disguises the fact that she has earned back-to-back Northwest Conference Player of the Year awards, has been selected twice to First Team All-West Region and was most recently honored this season as Second Team All-American.

“She was our go-to person,” Rupe said. “Everybody in the conference knew it and they still couldn’t stop her. She was heads and tails above everybody else.”

At one point this year, she was named Division III Volleyball Player of the Week — a national recognition. She led the NWC points per set, kills per set and total kills in her senior season for Whitworth.

It is for those reasons that Kaimi Rocha has been named the Female Athlete of the Year by The Whitworthian sports section staff.

Rocha has her twin sister and teammate, Ka’ipo Rocha, to thank for spurring her competitive drive and love for volleyball.  At age 11, the highly athletic Rocha twins started playing volleyball. Ka’ipo stuck with it, while Kaimi sat on the sidelines for a few months after deciding she didn’t like volleyball. That changed quickly.

“When she saw me get good she decided she wanted to get good too,” Ka’ipo — or “Eeep”, as her sister affectionately calls her on the court — said. “She’s very competitive.”

The Rocha sisters’ chemistry is unique and will be missed by Whitworth volleyball.

“I’ve had some great, great young ladies come through my program,” Rupe said. “But [Kaimi and Ka’ipo], I miss a lot of people, but I’m really going to miss them.”

Overshadowing Kaimi Rocha’s highly driven spirit is her surreal selflessness.

“The best part about Kaimi is she’s selfless,” said Bree Riddle, senior setter and teammate. “She’s never attention oriented. She’s always putting her attention back on the team.”

Likewise, Kaimi Rocha is as dedicated as they come. Ka’ipo Rocha laughed when she recalled how Kaimi likes to remind Ka’ipo that Kaimi never missed a practice in four years of playing.

“Which is hard because I’ve missed a bunch,” Ka’ipo Rocha said. “I’m proud of her work ethic.”

Her incredible determination is one of the reasons why Kaimi Rocha is such an effective leader. Her teammates and coach all said she leads by example.

“She wasn’t going to give you some motivational words to get you going, but she worked hard and she didn’t stop,” Riddle said. “She made everyone better. Being a setter to Kaimi, I’d throw a ball out there that wasn’t even close to a perfect set and she’d kill it and say ‘great job’. I’d say ‘sorry’ and she’d say, ‘don’t worry about it.’”

In addition to her individual honors this season, Kaimi Rocha led the Bucs to their second straight conference title and an impressive 19-7 overall record. One of Rocha’s favorite memories of the year was beating Pacific Lutheran University and University of Puget Sound — both reputably strong NWC teams — back-to-back nights in the Fieldhouse.

“It was one of our goals to make that happen,” Kaimi Rocha said. “It was great at the end of the week to have met our goal.”

The team-first attitude and passion for the game of volleyball shines through Kaimi Rocha.

“I realize that when I play for the love of the game, I do my best and that’s been my driving force, [rather than] to just play because I get recognition or because I want a certain amount of kills,” Kaimi Rocha said. “I just play to be around my teammates and do well so our team can come out on top.”

Kaimi Rocha credits the Whitworth volleyball program and her coaches for teaching her to be more than a volleyball player. She said she has gained irreplaceable skills like time management, working under pressure and overcoming adversity.

“Each year, she’s gotten better as a player and a teammate and senior year she came in and was the captain we needed her to be,” Riddle said. “I’m proud of her for being female athlete of the year. She deserves it.”

After graduation, both Rocha sisters plan on moving back home to the island of Maui in Hawaii, and apply to nursing school together.

“She’s just a quality human being,” Rupe said of Kaimi Rocha. “She led by example. She worked harder than anybody else. She was kind of the whole deal; she had the whole package.”

 

Story by Sena Hughes Staff Writer

Photographer: Tanner Scholten

 

Contact Sena Hughes at shughes15@my.whitworth.edu.