By Jessie Melton
Photos by Kurt Johnson
“In running there really is no off season,” says Whitney Rich, a junior runner on the Bingham High cross country and track teams. “When cross country ends we get right into track training and even before the end of track we’re already back into cross country training. So it’s really a year-round sport.”
Rich finished third at the 2015 Class 5A state cross country championships, which was a standout moment for her as she could see all of her hard work paying off. She also competed in the Bob Firman Invitational, where she placed third in the Elite race, while competing against nationally-ranked girls. Her personal best in the mile is 5.05, and her best 5K time is 17.40.
Rich keeps a strict routine and diet in order to stay in shape. She tries not to eat a few hours before warming up for a race, she stays away from processed foods or anything with added or refined sugar, and eats only whole foods and fresh fruits and vegetables. It was hard at first to limit herself like that, but she doesn’t even miss the foods she gave up.
The schedule Rich keeps might seem brutal to most high school students, as she is up every morning and at the school by 5:30 to work out with the team. There is also practice every day after school.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday are hard workout days, consisting of hill work and interval training, while Tuesdays and Thursdays are recovery days that involve long, slow, easy runs to let her body catch up. After big races and harder weeks, she likes to bike or swim to keep herself in shape.
Rich has worked hard to get where she is now, and credits it to her dedication and a few key people in her life. Her dad, an avid runner, has been pushing her ever since she was in second grade. Her older sister, Emily, ran at Bingham High as well, winning a few state titles along the way and even setting a state record in the 3,200 at the time.
Emily also ran at Brigham Young University, and her involvement with running is part of what has inspired Rich to run. Whitney first began competing while running on Marv Jensen’s cross country team during middle school. She’ll tell you endlessly how much she enjoys running.
“I love the way it makes me feel,” Emily said. “I like the whole runners high, and it’s definitely a big factor into it. I like getting the fresh air, and it helps me when there’s a lot going on in my life, to just kind of get away and enjoy it.”
Morning runs and trail runs are some of her favorite because she can just be out in the mountains and observe the beautiful scenery. Next up for Rich is track and field in the spring. A year ago, she was a Top 10 finisher in both the 1,600 and 3,200 as a sophomore.
Bingham High student Jessie Melton wrote this story as part of the Preps Utah student journalism program.