During the outdoor track season in spring 2018, redshirt junior Kevin White became Loyola’s first outdoor runner to qualify for the NCAA National Championship meet since the 2013-14 season.
At the NCAA West Regionals, White ran the fourth-fastest time in school history with 3:43.26 to finish in third place and earn a spot in the national race — despite recovering from an injury for the third consecutive season.
White, 21, said he’s is looking to make the 2018-19 school year the first year he runs cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. A string of injuries have left him out of at least one season of each sport since starting at Loyola..
“Going through that whole process was so frustrating to me because I had this doubt of would I ever get back into that really good shape,” White, 21, said. “Having to take that time off was disheartening but also motivating.”
As a first-year, White battled hip alignment issues missing his first outdoor season and the following cross country season. During his sophomore year — although he didn’t miss the indoor season — he became the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) 800-meter indoor champion while running with mononucleosis. Mononucleosis, also known as mono, is a viral infection that causes sore throat, enlarged tonsils and extreme fatigue and is treated with rest.
Finally, White had his appendix removed before the last indoor season, which sidelined him once again.
White said unlike most athletes, he doesn’t actually follow the sport he competes in — he’s just in it for the fun of competing.
“I don’t invest a lot of my time into seeing what other people do,” White said. “My joy for running is just doing it personally, competing as an individual. I love how I do [in meets]. I enjoy a good race here and there but not being able to do it … you just take everything more seriously because you realize how finite your time is.”
White began his academic career at Loyola as an undecided major; he’s now triple majoring in environmental science with a focus on conservation and restoration ecology, environmental policy and political science. Rather than spending his spare time watching Netflix, White said he does research, attends events and learns and listens to speakers.
“I have fallen in love with urban planning, how to make things better and use less resources,” White said. “A lot of the stuff that I do is just helping out with professors and attending events to gain more knowledge of what other people are doing.”
After graduation, White said he wants to go to graduate school to get his master’s degree or get a fellowship. He said he’s currently looking at University of Illinois at Chicago and other schools near his hometown of Wooster, Ohio.
“I have done a lot of work in undergrad to try and go to a good grad school or land a good fellowship,” White said. “I want to do urban planning or urban studies or public administration … something in that realm or government, local work.”
Junior cross country runner Riley DeMeulenaere said he met White during their recruiting visit their senior year of high school. He said the approach White takes to practice and races motivates him to be the best runner possible.
“His attitude [has helped a lot],” DeMeulenaere said. “That is what it comes down to I think. He is doing the small things right … I think [White] approaches every single day with a certain attitude to improve every single day which inspires us to follow in his footsteps because he is just leading by example.”
This season, White said he wants to make a name for himself in cross country by placing in the top three at the MVC Championship. Assistant coach Mircea Bogdan said he believes White can lead the men’s team based on how much training he did in the spring.
“Last year, he was one of the most consistent guys in cross country … you knew what you were getting with him,” Bogdan said. “Now he trained for the mile so his volume over the winter and spring was for the 1500, so he did more mileage. When you add them up logically he should be even better in cross-country.”
Becoming an All-American athlete is something White said he hopes to do this season both at NCAA Indoor Nationals and Outdoor Nationals. First Team All-American is made up of athletes who place first through eighth in their respective events, while Second Team All-American is made up of athletes who place ninth through 16th, according to the U.S. Track and Field and Cross-Country Coach Association website.
White said being able to run with the top runners in the country really boosted his confidence.
“It was just so important for me to just see where the best people in the country are at, and know that I am not that far,” White said. “There is still a lot things I can improve on as far as working on getting some consistency in my seasons and just training though … If I can just put things together like they did then I can definitely be one of the top three or win a national title.”
The cross-country team is scheduled to race next in the Bradley Pink Classic at Bradley University Oct. 12.