By Hannah Duffey
Running for a team and nonetheless, a collegiate cross-country team was something new for New Zealand native, Monique Whiteman.
The athletic club which was held Tuesday nights in Whiteman’s hometown is what got her into running.
It became a family affair that her whole family enjoyed doing together.
Runners like Whiteman enjoy everything about running, however, people like her are a part of a small percentage of young runners who stay in the sport.
“Running in New Zealand is something you do when you’re young,” Whiteman said. “Like everyone does cross country and everyone does running when they’re younger, and then they kind of go into sports teams like rugby and netball and hockey.”
From the terrain to the different racing events, these are all things that set Whiteman up to become a successful runner in the States.
“It’s like lots of hills, lots of mud, it’s intense, but I never really did that,” she said. But, over here It’s a lot more flat and Kind of not easier but just a lot more flat.”
In high school, she was not a distance runner and did not even consider running distance until her coach at her old school looked at her times and saw the potential that she had to be a successful distance runner.
For Whiteman, the transition from short-distance to long-distance was a learning obstacle but set her up for greatness and was the puzzle piece in her success story.
“I do like distance running. With distance running after a workout I feel more accomplished in running,” she said. “I read 60 miles a week and I feel so good. Whereas when I was sprinting it was a 20-minute long run for example.
You tend to look at different sports teams and see athletes training with the coach on the sideline calling the next play.
For Flagler’s cross-country team, the narrative is different.
Whiteman attributes her success to the family aspect and the commitment and dedication of her coaches.
Their shoes hit the tread as they join their athletes on each run.
“They’re running with us, they pace us. I think that helps a lot as well. They don’t just write the program out for us to do. They are writing out the program and our schedule, doing the workouts with us, and doing the long runs with us,” she said.
The coaching style has led Whiteman to break several school records as a team and an Individual title at the PBC Championships.
After a victorious season, Whiteman and her teammates qualified for the NCAA Division II Country Championship in Joplin, Missouri.
She ran a 22:59.4 6K to help lead her team to 23rd place in the cross-country championship.
“I couldn’t have really done that by myself. We (her teammates) lots of time work together during the race and we kind of like run off each other because we know that we’re all capable of achieving like the same time, which helps a lot,” Whiteman said. “So definitely like the team and the coaches again really helped with that.”
Coming to America to run has awarded Whiteman so many opportunities beyond just running cross-country.
“I was like well, like what am I gonna do if I want to like go to America, I can travel I can study and run all at the same time, but if I was to stay in New Zealand, I don’t think I’d still be running just because it’s not really like pushed, like it’s all funded by yourself,” she said. “You go to like University and you don’t run for your University. You still run for a club. There’s no running Scholarships in New Zealand.”
Without taking a chance on herself and pursuing her passion for running, Whiteman’s story would have unfolded differently.
Running gives her purpose and drive in life.
“I love it because you just feel so good after it and it’s kind of like when you’re doing it with your friends, especially like it just goes by so quick, and when you and when we wake up every morning like it gives us a purpose,” she said.