Whitney Evans leaves little to chance. Whether competing in sports or analyzing a stock portfolio for a finance class, her attention to detail pays dividends. The fifth-year scholar-athlete from Calgary is a straight-A student, a six-time track and field All-America. By the time she completes her athletic career at Washington State University in June, she will be the most decorated female athlete in the school’s history.
It’s late January now, the first track meet in WSU’s new air-supported “bubble.” Evans arrives early, stretches, and jogs easily. When her name’s called, she toes a piece of white tape 14 feet left of the high jump standard and 65 feet away. She’d walked off the first distance herself—heel to toe. She takes one step backwards, rocks on her heels, and begins her graceful, sweeping 10-stride approach. Near the bar, she plants her right foot and pushes off. Her body twists upward, and over she goes, landing on her back. Her best jump is six feet and 3/4 inches.
Evans prefers competitors at all heights to jumping alone. “Having someone there to push me is always an incentive,” she says.
Only once in seven NCAA championships has she failed to score points, finishing 15th indoors as a sophomore. She’s placed second and sixth indoor, and has a third and two fourths outdoors. Add a seventh in the heptathlon. Her 5,579 points in the seven events is the third highest total at WSU.
Evans’s achievements have not come without a price. Plagued by chronic patella tendinitis in her right knee, she missed the outdoor season as a sophomore, and last year’s indoor action. Still, she’s won a pair of Pac-10 high jump titles and was runner-up in the 2001 heptathlon.
“Track teaches you about dedication and hard work that can transfer into any part of your life,” she says.
WSU’s co-captain is “disciplined in her daily routine . . . goal-oriented . . . a high achiever . . . and is fun to be around,” according to coach Rick Sloan. In four and half years, she’s never been late for anything. She’s orderly and precise, but not to a fault. She has it all together.
Like all great athletes, Evans is never satisfied with anything but her best effort. If she wins, but doesn’t jump high at a meet, she’s disappointed. If she jumps high, but doesn’t win, she’s disappointed. Winning and jumping high make her happy.
She’s a winner in the classroom as well. As a sophomore, she settled on finance as a major. She liked the broad appeal of the subject, “more than just investments and stock analysis.” Some day she plans to return to Calgary and pursue a business career—”maybe in the retail clothing area with a franchise, or on my own.”
Last May she completed a bachelor’s degree with a 3.98 g.p.a. Her favorite courses? Finance 427 (Investments and Securities Analysis) and 428 (Portfolio Theory), taught by Rick Sias, associate professor and holder of the Brinson Chair in Investment Management. A major portion of the courses was dedicated to managing $180 million of WSU’s endowment (the “Cougar Investment Fund”). Class members analyzed stocks in 10 different sectors, including energy, basic materials, utilities, and industrials. Students use fundamental and relative valuation techniques, earnings analysis, analyst recommendations, and holdings by professional investors in forming their own recommendations. The University’s chief investment officer executed trades based on the classís recommendation.
Several class members also presented their results to the Regents/Foundation Investment Committee.
“We invested three days before the September 11 terrorist attacks,” Evans said. “We ended up beating the S&P [Standard and Poor] stock index and made money.”
Sias, like his colleagues, is impressed by Evans’s work ethic and intelligence. “She’s so bright . . . takes her school work seriously, is a very good speaker, poised and prepared.”
Because of her injury, Evans was granted an additional year to complete her athletic eligibility. She also decided to pursue an M.B.A.
Though born in Denver, Evans has spent most of her life in Calgary, where her father is an oil and gas consultant. She holds dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship. Competition has taken her to The Netherlands, France, Cuba, and throughout the United States and Canada. This summer, she hopes to represent Canada at the World University Games in South Korea. The 2004 Summer Olympics at Athens are another goal.
For now, she is focusing on her graduate work and her final seasons as a Cougar athlete.
“If you had a whole team of Whitney Evans, you’d win national championships,” Sloan says. “You’d never have to worry about grades, or about behavioral things like missing the bus.”