Tate Whaley may be a runner for UCA’s cross country and track and field teams now, but running wasn’t always his first choice in sports.
He began running his freshman year of high school in Maumelle and has stayed at it for the past seven years.
“I was playing baseball at the time, my freshman year of high school, and I wanted to lose weight so I could get better at baseball,” Whaley said. “As the years progressed doing cross country, I just enjoyed it way more than baseball. The team atmosphere, the people around me, the coach, and everything.”
Already in his senior year, Whaley’s perseverance in running has yielded impressive results. He joined UCA’s team as a walk-on his freshman year, and has now earned almost a full athletic scholarship.
One of his proudest accomplishments is his 5k time, coming in at just under 15 minutes; something not many are able to do.
“My high school PR in the 5k was 17:25, and I’ve worked it all the way down to 14:59 in three years,” he said.
His best time for the 10k is 31:43, and for the 8k, it’s 26:12.
Whaley, an English education major, plans to become a high school coach after finishing at UCA. He was inspired by his former cross country coach.
“He was a history teacher and he was a really good teacher and a super good coach. He made me want to be a coach.”
The community feeling of his high school track team wasn’t only an aspect of his hometown team. The feeling continues with his teammates now.
“The guys' team will always meet together, we’ll have a little dinner, we’ll sit around and just chill the night before a race. It helps us get ready for the meet and helps us focus,” Whaley said. “We’re not really a party team, so we normally just hang out. It’s such a family atmosphere compared to other teams.”
Other than wanting to stay close to home to watch his younger siblings grow up, the family atmosphere of the team helped Whaley decide that UCA was the place for him.
“I wanted to go D1. Coach Beau was the only D1 coach that showed interest in me and acted like he wanted me here. All of the other D1s kind of blew me off and were trying to get bigger recruits,” he said. “But Coach Beau, although I wasn’t that good in high school, still acted like he wanted me here, so it felt good to come here.”
Being a student athlete and having two, sometimes three, practices a day takes up a lot of Whaley’s time, but the team and his coaches always make sure that the student aspect is never forgotten.
“Our coaches make us do study hall hours, so we’re forced to have to do homework. If you make a bad grade, you can’t run, so you have people depending on you,” he said. “Just use your time wisely; you have time, you just don’t have as much time.”
Whaley’s advice for up and coming runners and those hoping to join a college team is to “make big dreams for little dreams to come.”
“I struggled my first few years of running because I had all these tiny dreams I wanted to read, and I got satisfied too easily,” he said. “Reaching my bigger dreams is so much better than reaching those small dreams. So make big dreams; there’s no reason to make little dreams.”