Fourth-year captain Billy Whitmore will represent Chicago by himself this Saturday when he travels to Terre Haute, IN to compete in the DIII National Championship.
The whole squad, by finishing sixth in the regional race, missed out on qualification by one spot.
“I am disappointed that they won’t get the opportunity to compete as a group this weekend but could not be more proud of the effort they put in this season,” head coach Chris Hall said. “I honestly believe that although [Billy] will be the only individual representing our men’s squad this weekend, he is running for his teammates.”
Whitmore’s 2011 season culminated with an impressive seventh place finish at the DIII National Championship; he was also named an All-American.
Still, Whitmore looks to improve upon last year’s results. Only one of the six runners who beat Whitmore last November remains, with four having graduated and the other no longer competing.
“I just want to finish as high as I can,” Whitmore said.
UW–Stout’s Tim Nelson will most likely be the man to beat at the DIII National Championship. Nelson finished fifth in last year’s championship, and this year, he won the Midwest Regional qualifier (24:24.67), where Whitmore finished seventh (24:38.94).
However, it should be noted that Whitmore has posted better times in the past.
“My expectations are that he gives his greatest effort,” Coach Hall said. “I am confident he will put himself into a position to be an All-American again this weekend.”
Despite the heavy competition, it is not unrealistic for Whitmore to win the race. But victory would require a pace of roughly 4:50 per mile, perhaps even faster. At this point, though, the key is mental preparation.
“I’m just going to run my race,” Whitmore said.
Whitmore came to the U of C after a successful XC and track career at St. Ignatius High School (Cleveland, OH). He had an immediate impact for the South Siders, running as one of the Maroons’ top-seven runners and placing second at Regionals in his first year. Since then, Whitmore has been nothing short of a sensation for the Maroons, becoming only the fifth All-American runner in school history.
“Billy has really enjoyed going through the process of developing as an athlete,” Hall said. “What I have most enjoyed about working with him is that he always enjoyed where he was in the growth process instead of always wanting to be a finished product.”
However, Whitmore’s time as a Maroon will soon come to a close. The DIII National Championship will be the last time Whitmore dons the maroon and white.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” Whitmore said, “but I have enjoyed every moment.”
A group of fellow Maroons who did not qualify for the race will make the ride down to Terre Haute in order to support Whitmore and the women’s squad.
“Having my teammates there is a huge boost of encouragement,” Whitmore said. “They push me through the tough miles.”
When asked if there was anything he wanted to share with the Maroon regarding the race this weekend, Whitmore had only one thing to say: “I’m so proud to represent my school and my team…. I run for all of them.”
The DIII National Championship men’s race is slated to begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday. NCAA.com will provide a live feed for the event.