The Dominion Post  

University High track/XC star picks W. Liberty

Created on:   Wed, Feb 7, 2018   9:40 PM

Last modified:   Wed, Feb 7, 2018   9:40 PM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — Some folks can wake up one day and know where they want to be 10 or 20 years down the line. Life may not always turn out as they planned, but any number of armchair quarterbacks or washed-up JV point guards will be glad to reflect on their careers, and tell you what could have been if only things had turned out differently.

Other people don’t figure out their plans until a bit later. For example, University senior cross-country and track athlete Philip White didn’t always know he wanted to run collegiately. In fact, it was a pretty recent revelation.

“Once I got to high school and met this group of guys on the team, they had a really big influence on me,” White said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to keep running.”

High school changed a lot of things for White, who went from a life of relative anonymity and few aspirations of being a college athlete to becoming a highly touted recruit and one of the most recognizable high school runners in the state.

White burst onto the scene as a freshman, nabbing a 10th-place finish at the state championships, while UHS grabbed the team state title on the boys’ side.

“I came in with a good group of guys who pushed me to do my best and taught me a lot about the sport,” White said.

He returned to the state meet the following year, but couldn’t secure a repeat of his top-10 finish, coming in 12th.

2016, however, would be a different story.

White elevated himself to a new level as a junior, turning in a milestone season that culminated in him claiming the Class AAA individual state championship and leading his team to a fourth-place overall finish.

His performance began to turn heads nationwide, and he was a finalist for the 2016-’17 Gatorade National Cross-Country Runner of the Year Award.

It was after that landmark season that coaches began knocking on White’s door, in hopes of landing one of West Virginia’s finest young talents. But it wasn’t until after a visit to West Liberty that the game truly changed for White.

“I took a visit there, and I really liked it,” White said. “I’m not a big-city person, I like smaller areas. West Liberty is out in the country, there’s a lot of nature, and that’s where I like to be.”

White finished out his senior year strongly, dropping his 5K time to 15:34 and earning a runner-up finish as an individual at his fourth state meet.

And perhaps even more importantly, somewhere along his trail of accomplishments, he made a decision: West Liberty was where he wanted to continue his career.

Wednesday, White made it official, joining six other Hawks in signing their national letters of intent.

“I know their coach very well, and I know the way he coaches,” White said. “It’s a coaching style I’ve been used to for a few years, and it’s the coaching style I feel like my body has adapted to. I have my best performances with that style of coaching.”

The Hilltoppers, for their part, seem enthused about welcoming White into the program.

“Philip White is a game-changer for our program,” West Liberty head coach Justin Simpson said.

“We have already started building a track and cross-country team that will be competing at the top level of the Mountain East Conference in the very near future. Adding a runner the caliber of Philip White to the mix illustrates our commitment to that objective.”

White will likely be a force on the track for West Liberty as well, as he owns personal bests of 9:17 in the 3,200 meter run and 4:26 in the 1,600 meters. His skills earned him a spot at the 2017 New Balance Indoor Track and Field National Meet.

“I’ve had a very good career as a high school runner, and I’ve had a great time,” White said. “Now I’m excited about all the new adventures I get to have; all the new courses and all the new people I get to race against. And there’s a higher level of training, so I get to learn to push myself harder.”