Larkin High School
6th grade teacher at Rhodes School
First Trials qualification
Number of attempts to qualify
Eastern Illinois University
Ohio Valley Conference Champion; 2-time NCAA D I Regional qualifier, Eastern Illinois University steeplechase and 1,500m record-holder
My parents, Michele and Steve Whitehead, raised my brothers, Bryan and Trevor, and me in a very active household. We grew up learning how to ski and bike at a very young age and took many trips centered around those activities. Both of my parents played ultimate frisbee competitively and my brothers both went on to play DIII football in college. My mom also hurdled in college, which is why I began my track and field career. Our family values haven't changed much as we have gotten older. My mom and dad continue to go on ski trips, Bryan coaches DI college football, Trevor says yes to pretty much everything and they all have been my biggest supporters and cheerleaders as I continue to run competitively. My husband, Donnie, and I met on the track team at Eastern Illinois University. He threw shot, disc, hammer and weight. His throwing days are over but now he bikes alongside me for my long runs and workouts, providing hydration and the best music. He also makes sure that brunch or dinner is ready when I finish my runs. I definitely wouldn't be here if it weren't for all of them.
I feel very lucky to be doing some of the things that I dreamed about when I was younger: Being married to my husband, buying our first home, owning a dog together. Additionally, being able to qualify for the Trials was something I never even dreamed of doing, especially while teaching and coaching.
During college, I found success pretty quickly when I began running the steeplechase. It felt like MY event because I had background hurdling in high school, and I also enjoyed and excelled in middle distance events. My strength and power seemed to help as well so I made it my goal to qualify for nationals my senior year of college. That year, I got faster and had more success in every event I ran, all except the steeple. By the end of the year, I didn't qualify and was devastated when my collegiate running career was over, feeling like I fell short of my goal. I took some time off after college but when I began running again, I took all of these experiences and beliefs about myself with me even though I didn't realize it. At practices and on the start line of races, I knew I was a good runner but clearly never one of the "best" because I didn't qualify to run against the best in the country in the event that I believed was my best. Fast forward to this past year as I was training to qualify for the Trials. I had a thought a couple weeks before Chicago that surprised me: that the marathon was MY event. I remembered that each time I ran a marathon, I hit my goal and ran a PR. I had figured out my nutrition and always felt energized during the morning. So in the final weeks leading up to the race, I began to remind myself that this was my event. I had been successful every time, so what's one more time. On race day, I hit my goal, almost exactly 10 years after falling short in college. The marathon may not truly be MY event but I'm so excited to say I will finally get to line up among the best runners in the country. Heading to Orlando is a pretty good consolation prize for never making it to Eugene.
Midnight Sky by Miley Cyrus
Favorite Post-race Indulgence
Favorite Running Memory
My junior year of college, our team won cross country conference for the first time in 10 years. I finished that race running next to one of my best friends and teammates, earning all-OVC honors and we all embraced as our coach shouted, "I think we f@#&ing did it."