'Alex was one of the most genuine people I've ever met'

EUGENE, Ore. - Friends of the University of Oregon tennis player who drowned Saturday returned to class Monday with heavy hearts.

Alex Rovello, 21, died when he jumped from a 60-foot cliff at Tamolitch Falls on the McKenzie River.

The falls - which disappear beneath a basalt dam and reappear in a feature sometimes called Blue Pool in all but the highest water years - are a popular hiking destination located along Highway 126 and the McKenzie River Trail.

The Linn County Sheriff's Office said witnesses saw Rovello hit the 37 degree water with his face and chest.

He drowned before rescuers could reach him.

Rovello's father said hearing authorities say their son had drowned was the hardest thing he and his wife have ever endured.

"It's been tough," Jim Rovello said. "We've had people coming in and out, a lot of crying, and a lot of sleepless nights. It's only been two, but yeah, how would any parent take something like that? It's devastating."

Jim Rovello said he is proud not only of his son's accomplishments as an athlete but also the way he succeeded with humility and compassion for others.

Students who knew Rovello said the news was hard to hear.

"My initial reaction was shock, and I'm just ... still shocked," said Oregon student Paul Webber, who knew Rovello. "Alex was one of the most genuine people I've ever met at this University, specifically. Really caring, huge smile on his face at all times when he saw you, and just really humble and mature."

A four-time state champion at Cleveland High School in Portland and a standout on the Oregon tennis team, Rovello was widely known for his talent on the tennis courts.

Even students who didn't know him personally said they felt a loss to the Oregon Duck community.

"When we lose a student, it's obviously sad for all of us," said student Jame Friedlander.

Webber said one can never be prepared for this kind of loss.

"My biggest regret is I saw him pass by and I didn't go and say hi to him," he said. "So it kind of puts things in perspective. I could've taken the time and didn't do it."