Although Ian Whittall ’14 has blazed as Andover Boys Cross Country’s lead runner for the past two seasons, his path to success is as humble as it is outstanding. Starting as part of the training pack as a new Lower, Whittall exceeded all expectations, competing in a JV time trial and continuing on to dominate the Varsity scene within the span of a month. His consistent first place titles this season, along with his determination and perseverance in the past three years, have established him as The Phillipian’s Athlete of the Week.
When did you start running and why?
I started running cross country when I came here to PA as a new Lower. In previous years, I had played soccer, but the year before I came here, I got Lyme disease twice and I was out for the fall season. So I figured this was my opportunity to try something new. The only reason I chose to start running as opposed to some other sport, though, was because in my old school we had to take something called the “Physical Fitness Test,” which tested running as one of the components to evaluate a student’s overall fitness level, and I had always done very well on the running portion.
When you’re facing blood, sweat and tears, how do you manage to push yourself up the hill?
I always remind myself that the other runners must be experiencing just as much pain as me, and that I know I have put 100 percent effort into every practice. I remember that my teammates are trying as hard as I am because I know how hard they’ve tried in the practices, and that the pain of the race is just minutes away from being over. Also, I always think of my mom at the finish line saying, “No matter what happens, I know you tried your hardest.”
Who is your favorite athlete/role model?
My role models are probably Seniors from previous years at PA. I remember that the old Seniors always seemed to be on top of everything despite college applications, regular coursework and sports.
Do you have any special pre-race rituals?
Besides stretching and running the course, I always think of orchestral pieces. For instance, I listened to “To Aslan’s Camp” from “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” and right before my race [on Wednesday], I listened to “Legend of Zelda.”
What’s your favorite pre-race meal?
My favorite pre-race meal really varies depending on when the race is—in the morning or the afternoon. Usually the night before a race I have at least one bowl of pasta (a.k.a. “Carbo Loading”), a bowl of salad and some sort of lean meat: nothing too heavy.
Favorite way to celebrate a win?
My favorite way to celebrate a win is usually eating out or getting a lot of sleep that night; nothing too crazy.
Most memorable race/practice?
My most memorable race was last year when we raced Deerfield on our home course and everyone expected us to lose. Before the race, our head coach, Mr. Domina, recited a passage of Tennyson, of which I only remember, “though much is taken, much abides.” Everyone was so inspired, and we actually ended up winning the race and I came in first.
How do you manage sports and school work?
The way I see it is that sports counts as an extra class. For many people, sports take up just as much time as a regular class (including homework!), and so I feel obligated to put as much effort into my sport as I would any class. The amount of schoolwork at PA is often over exaggerated, except sometimes during Upper year (of course), and I really don’t have much of a procrastination problem, unless you count procrastinating some homework with other homework. Usually sports doesn’t get too much in the way of academics unless I have a race that is an hour or two away, and during those days I usually try to bring homework to do on the bus ride or I stay up a little later than usual.
Advice to aspiring runners?
I would advise aspiring runners to always start with some short-term and some long-term goals in mind. Also, finding someone to run with is necessary because he or she will ensure that you run routinely and will make it more fun: it’s someone to talk to during those long runs and rainy days. Running can either be something you do to the side that’s optional, or it can be a part of you that’s essential: you choose.