RAYMOND BORLESKE – Coach (Football, Basketball, Baseball)
Excerpted from his Whitman College Hall of Fame bio:
“Raymond Vincent Borleske, who starred at Whitman from 1906 to 1910, is regarded as possibly the best athlete to ever grace the playing fields of the college. As a running back, fierce defender and kicker in football, Borleske was a fixture on all-Northwest Conference teams. As a baseball player, he pitched, caught and played third base. Later in life, in a Whitman coaching career that spanned more than three decades, Borleske led his alma mater to a total of 17 conference championships in football, baseball and basketball.
Borleske became the first athlete from the western U.S. to receive Honorable Mention All-America recognition from Walter Camp’s Spaulding Football Guide.
A graduate of Spokane, Wash., High School, Borleske was a natural leader at Whitman, both on the field and off. He served as president of the junior class and then held the same position with the associated student government in his final year. For most of his college career, Borleske also worked as an assistant instructor in mathematics at Whitman’s academy, or preparatory school.
After completing his law degree at the University of Oregon Law School, Borleske answered a call from Whitman President Stephen Penrose and returned to campus in 1915 as football, baseball and basketball coach. He led his alma mater to conference football titles in 1921, 1928, 1930 and 1931, but he enjoyed his greatest coaching success in baseball. Borleske directed Whitman to 10 Northwest Conference baseball crowns, amassing an impressive won-loss record of 530-368. His basketball teams also savored a strong run, winning seven conference titles in one 12-year span.
After retiring from coaching in 1947, Borleske served two terms as mayor of Walla Walla. Borleske is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Hall of Fame.”
HIRAM CONIBEAR – Crew
Originator of a stroking technique that bore his name for many years, he coached University of Washington oarsmen for 11 years (1907-1917) and guided his Husky teams to many Poughkeepsie triumphs. One of rowing’s top coaches, he died at 46 in 1917.
Conibear’s rowing legacy is chronicled more thoroughly in the article at SportspressNW.com.
GRETCHEN KUNIGK FRASER – Snow Skiing
Gretchen Kunigk was born in Tacoma on February 11, 1919, and at the time of her death in 1994 was still known as America’s Lady of Skiing. Her interest in the sport undoubtedly came from her Norwegian mother, who campaigned for the development of public skiing on Mount Rainier. Prior to Gretchen’s marriage in 1939 to Donald Fraser, a member of the 1936 Olympic ski team, she attended the College of Puget Sound from 1937 to 1939 and became a member of the school’s team. She was a graduate of Stadium High School.
In 1940, Gretchen Fraser was named to the Olympic ski team. Even though the games were not held that year, Fraser competed nationally during this time, winning the downhill and alpine combined championships in 1941 and the national slaloms in 1942. Other victories included the Silver Belt in Sugar Bowl, California, and the Snow Cap at Alta, Utah.
Fraser made headlines throughout the world at the 1948 Olympic Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland: She became the first American skier ever to win a gold medal in skiing with her victory in the women’s slalom competition based on the total time over two runs. Fraser also won a silver medal in the downhill-slalom combined event. Gretchen was also the first female from Pierce County to win an Olympic gold medal and Puyallup’s George Hunt was the first male to win an Olympic gold medal, that being on the winning USA crew team in the 1936 Berlin Games. Fraser then went on to serve as an advisor/manager for the 1952 U.S. Olympic ski team.
Although Fraser retired from the sport following her Olympic victories, skiing always remained a part of her life. Prior to the 1948 games, Fraser taught riding, skiing, and swimming to injured veterans. Following the war, her interest in supporting sports as a rehabilitation tool was extended to the Special Olympics. Her lifetime of commitment led to her induction in 1957 into the first class of the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Hall of Fame, the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame and the National Ski Hall of Fame in 1960, the UPS Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame in Park City in 2002.
Gretchen’s Gold — a ski run at Sun Valley’s Seattle Ridge — is named for her as well as a restaurant in the Sun Valley Lodge. Gretchen Fraser died at age 75 in February 1994, fittingly during the Winter Olympics.
HELENE MADISON – Swimming
From her U.S. Olympics Hall of Fame bio:
“Helene Madison was one of the first female American swimming stars. Growing up in Seattle, her home was one block away from Green Lake and she could often be found swimming there in the summer. She broke the Washington state record in the 100-yard freestyle at age 15, then found success at the U.S. national championships and set 23 freestyle world records over the next three years at various distances.
Queen Helene, as she would soon become known, made her biggest splash at the Los Angeles 1932 Olympic Games. Her first race was the 100-meter freestyle, where she won the gold medal, setting an Olympic record just two-tenths of a second off her own world record. Four days later, Madison and her American teammates shattered the previous 4×100-meter freestyle relay world record by nearly 10 seconds to claim gold. The next day, Madison set a new world record and edged teammate Lenore Kight by one-tenth of a second to win gold in the 400-meter freestyle.”
That was the end of Madison’s swimming career. Following The Olympics, she appeared in the films The Human Fish and The Warrior’s Husband, ending her amateur career. Madison also had a stint as a swimming coach; one of her students, Nancy Ramey, won a silver medal in the 100-meter butterfly in the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games.
In 1992, Madison was featured on a U.S. postage stamp.
GEORGE WILSON – Football
One of the University of Washington’s all-time backfield greats, he became a legend with the Huskies from 1923-25. Wilson played all 60 minutes most games as a runner, passer, punter and linebacker. In his three seasons for the Huskies, they won 28, lost three and tied three. He played in two Rose Bowls. Prominent sportswriter Grantland Rice named Wilson to the 1925 All-American backfield. Wilson is considered by many people to be the best player in the first 50 years of the UW football program.
He topped off his college career with three professional seasons before the NFL was a stable entity, then completed his life in sports as a professional wrestler. He played for undefeated Everett High School teams. The Everett High Seagulls team met Scott High of Toledo, Ohio in a 1919 “national championship” game that ended tied.
A more in-depth bio is available at HistoryLink.org.