BLUE RIVER, Ore. -- A 21-year-old University of Oregon tennis star from Portland died Saturday afternoon after jumping off a 60-foot cliff into Tamolitch Pool, Linn County sheriff’s deputies said.
Deputies reported that Alex James Rovello, 21, of Portland, drowned after jumping and hitting the water with his face and upper chest at around 2 p.m. Tamolitch Falls, which is a popular place for cliff diving, is about 90 miles northeast of Eugene.
Rovello is a 2010 graduate of Cleveland High School in Portland and became the first tennis player in state history to win four straight singles titles.
At the University of Oregon, he helped the tennis team rise in the college rankings and beat Stanford for the first time ever. He won 10 matches at the No. 1 singles position last year.
On Saturday, friends and bystanders tried saving him, however the depth and near-freezing temperature of the water proved too difficult, officials said. The water there is 37 degrees.
Cell phone reception was spotty in the area and a witness had to run nearly two miles before he was able to get service and call 911, officials said.
The pool, also called ‘Blue Pool’, is near the Trail Bridge Campground about 20 miles east of Blue River and is fed by the McKenzie River.
A cashier at the nearby Harbick's Country Store told KVAL News that the cold waters of Blue Pool and the McKenzie River are extremely dangerous this time of year, as swimmers may not realize how cold the waters really are.
Deputies said alcohol didn’t appear to be a factor in the drowning.
KATU.com contributed to this report.
UO Family Mourns Alex Rovello After Diving Accident
Statement from the University of Oregon on GoDucks.com
EUGENE, Ore. -- University of Oregon junior Alex James Rovello, a member of the men's tennis team, died Saturday following a drowning accident on the McKenzie River. Linn County Sheriff’s office confirmed Rovello died as a result of a diving accident at Tamolitch Falls.
"The Oregon tennis family is devastated by the loss of Alex," said Nils Schyllander, Head Men's Tennis Coach. "He was an amazing person and teammate and his spirit will live on forever with all of us who were fortunate enough to have known him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his parents, Geri and Jim Rovello, and to the entire family."
Rovello recorded a 21-8 match record in 2013, playing mostly in the No. 3 and No. 4 spots in singles. He and his partner, Daan Maasland, won 16 matches in the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles spots, tied for eighth most in school history. Sophomore year, he won ten matches at No. 1 singles, following up on his eleven wins at No. 1 singles as a freshman.
Rovello joined the Ducks after a successful prep career that saw him go 50-0 in singles and 65-2 overall for Grant High School, becoming the first player ever in the state of Oregon to win four consecutive state singles titles. As a prep athlete, Rovello appeared in the June 14, 2010 issue of Sports Illustrated's "Faces In the Crowd".
“Alex was so much more than a dedicated and exemplary student-athlete at the University of Oregon,” Director of Athletics Rob Mullens said. “He was a son, a brother, a friend, a teammate, a leader, whose warm personality brought everyone together and whose contributions to the extended Oregon community will resonate long after today. On behalf of the UO family, we extend our sympathies to Alex’s family, and we will honor his memory each and every day.”
Rovello's family is planning a memorial service for Saturday, May 18th.