SPOKANE, Wash., June 1. BRENT Rice, one of the greatest athletes in Whitworth College and Northwest Conference history, was killed early Friday morning in a single-car accident near Yuma, Arizona.
Rice, a 2002 Whitworth graduate, was the fourth of four Rice brothers to compete for the Pirates in swimming. Jeff and Jerry, identical twin brothers, graduated from Whitworth in 1997. Brian graduated in 2000. All four were All-American swimmers at Whitworth.
The four have four younger siblings and are the sons of Jim and Mary Jo Rice.
"This is a tragic loss for the Whitworth College family," said Whitworth College Director of Athletics Scott McQuilkin. "Brent Rice was a tremendous athlete and a wonderful teammate. Our college is blessed because Brent was a Whitworth student-athlete. Our sympathy and prayers go out to the entire Rice family."
Rice was originally from Des Moines, Washington and was a state champion in swimming at Mt. Rainier High School.
Rice's accomplishments as a swimmer are almost too numerous to count.
He burst onto the scene in the Northwest Conference as a freshman in 1999 with the greatest individual performance in the history of the NWC Swimming Championships. He dominated the meet by winning all three of his individual events (200-yard Individual Medley, 400-yard Individual Medley, 200-yard Butterfly) in meet record time and also led three Pirate relays (400 Medley, 400 Free, 800 Free) to NWC titles in meet record time. He was named as the NWC's Men's Swimmer of the Meet that season.
Of his 12 career individual events at the NWC Championships, he won nine times and finished second three times. He also was part of 11 conference champion relay teams and four others that finished second. When he concluded his final Northwest Conference Championship meet in 2002, Rice held NWC meet records in the 200 I.M., 400 I.M., 200 Butterfly and 100 Freestyle. He also was part of records in the 800 Free Relay, the 200 Medley Relay and the 400 Medley Relay.
"Brent just had a love of life and he lived his to the fullest," said Tom Dodd, Whitworth College's swimming coach from 1988 through 2003, and now the coach at California Lutheran University.
"He commanded respect and admiration from his teammates and his competitors," continued Dodd. "But he also had a way of making everyone feel like a friend. He just loved people. We will miss him deeply."
Rice was also a standout at the NCAA Division III Championships. He led Whitworth's transition from the NAIA to the NCAA by scoring in all 12 of his career individual races at the NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships. He was an All-American (top-eight finish) eight times and an Honorable Mention All-American (places 9-16) four times. His highest finish came during his senior season, when he was third in the 200 I.M. He also participated on ten Pirate relays that scored at the NCAA Championships.
He earned several individual awards. He was the NWC Swimmer of the Year in 1999 and 2002. He was also Whitworth College Senior Male Athlete of the Year in 2002.
"Brent Rice helped bring our team to small college prominence and left an enduring mark on our program, both in terms of his personality and what he accomplished in the pool," said Whitworth head coach Steve Schadt, who competed with Jeff and Jerry as a Pirate swimmer. "His role in the history of our program cannot be overstated. We've lost a member of our team and extended family. He will be greatly missed."
Final arrangements for Brent will take place Saturday, June 5th at 11:00 am. The service will be at St. Philomena Church in Des Moines.