By KIPP HANLEY
Brentsville senior Dustin Whitlow has lived all over the world but has finally found a home for cross country this fall.
An avid runner who had been competing for a Department of Defense school in England, Whitlow walked into Brentsville for the first time and noticed a huge framed photo of the 2002 Group A state cross country championship team hanging across from the gymnasium.
”I knew this was the right school for me,” Whitlow said after seeing the picture.
Whitlow was born in Scotland and has lived in Florida, Japan, Maine, Washington, D.C., Germany, Washington state and England. His father Philip is a Chief Warrant Officer for the Navy, where he works in the field of cryptology. Whitlow spent the past four years of his life on Menwith Hill Base in Harrogate, England, where the competition wasn’t so fierce and the weather wasn’t so hot.
”It’s a lot different here,” Whitlow said. ”There are a lot more runners here, just to start off with and the competition is quite a bit stronger.”
When he came on board, Whitlow said the team embraced him right away. And he noticed a single-minded purpose from everyone on the Tigers squad that was absent at times with his former high school teammates.
”The team is very motivated to achieving all their goals and dreams this year,” Whitlow said. ”And they always have been from what I can tell.”
That unity is fostered by coach Rob Dulin, whom Whitlow respects immensely. Despite moving up to Group AA, the Tigers have fared extremely well this season – with wins at the Goucher (Md.) Invitational and the Virginia Tech Invitational – and Whitlow’s improvement has been rapid. Typically, he put in training weeks of 50 to 60 miles this summer, which helped prepare him for the season.
”The workouts are twice as hard and twice as long and I have gotten so much better over the summer,” Whitlow said. ”In six weeks since I’ve started [at Brentsville], I can already tell a huge difference.”
”He was a welcome addition to our team and he was exactly what we needed,” said Dulin, who lost the services of top runners Ben Truschel and Andrew Cheshire to graduation in 2002. ”It’s not just that he runs fast. The team benefits from his levelheadedness and his confidence and the character that he brought to the team.”
Before moving to the United States, Whitlow had more than his fair share of adventures while running for his high school team in England. He once took a 23-hour trip that included a ferry over from England and a bus ride to Ansbach, Germany, for divisional championships during his sophomore year. In fact, the closest cross country race Whitlow ever ran in was two hours away from the base.
”You slept overnight [on the bus] and the next day, you’re expected to be able to perform,” Whitlow said of his trip to Germany. ”That was a long trip. You … were lucky to get four or five solid hours [of sleep] where you’d be completely out, because you were always getting woken up for something.”
Whitlow ended up winning that race and many others before moving to Virginia. He started running in middle school in Arlington, Wash., a tiny town 86 miles from Olympia, the state capital. He soon figured out that he was talented enough to run in high school.
”I knew pretty much in eighth grade that I had something,” Whitlow said. ”I wasn’t quite sure yet but my freshman year, it really kicked in.”
That talent was soon matched with a strong desire to compete at the next level. When Whitlow found out he was moving to the United States, he searched the Internet to find a running camp he could participate in that summer. He found one to his liking at Southern Indiana University in Evansville, Ind., just two hours northwest of Louisville, Ky. – his father’s hometown.
He enjoyed his week-long experience there but is still keeping his options open as to where he wants to run collegiately.
”There’s plenty of good running schools,” Whitlow said. ”A big dream of mine is to go to Wisconsin; they’ve got a really top-notch program. [I am] just seeing who gives offers.”
Until then, he hopes to run in the top five in the Group AA state meet and to break the 16-minute barrier. So far his best five-kilometer time is 17:31 – fourth-best in the Prince William and Stafford counties. That came at Goucher, a tough, slow course that was even slower because of wet and muddy conditions.
Dulin believes that Whitlow can be all-state if he runs in top form. He also has no doubt about his potential in college, thanks to a terrific work ethic and competitive nature.
”Right away it didn’t look like he’d be in our top two or three, more like the top five or top seven,” Dulin said. ”But he’s a competitor. He’s a kid that just likes to get out there and compete.”