June 5, 2006
This story originally appeared in the June 5, 2006 edition of The Patriot Ledger.
Navy has standout athlete in Whipple
By JOHN R. JOHNSON
For The Patriot Ledger
There is a new movie plot forming on the campus of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. The working title is An Officer and an Athlete, and Duxbury's Justine Whipple is up for the star role.
Three years into her military training at Navy, Whipple is tearing up both the collegiate track and field circuit and national triathlon competitions, and she's also earning a reputation as one of the toughest track competitors in the country.
When she's not busy training this summer for the World Collegiate Games to be held in Switzerland in August, she'll be busy enduring four weeks of Marine Corps training, and then pulling rank as senior officer for the indoctrination of incoming freshmen.
``I've always been interested in the military,'' said Whipple, a former Patriot Ledger All-Scholastic who competed in the state championship in the two mile. ``I have no military history in my family, but I wanted to serve as an officer. I was excited about the opportunity to go to a military school because I've always liked a regimented structure and schedule.''
Evidently, it agrees with her quite well. Whipple is coming off a junior year that featured some huge accomplishments. It started in the fall, when Whipple was named a first-team all-Patriot League and posted Navy's fastest time in each of the six races she competed in. She just missed qualifying for the NCAA championships with a 10th place finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional.
Her success continued during the indoor track season, again earning all Patriot League honors as well as all East recognition in the 5,000 meters. She smashed the Navy record by nearly 20 seconds at the ECAC championships in March, but some nagging injuries kept her from competing in the NCAAs.
Lately, Whipple has found success off the track as well, finishing first in the 2005 ITU World Triathlon Age Group Championship last October in Honolulu. Competing in the 20-24 age group, she covered the 1.5 swim, 40k bike and 10k run in a career-best two hours, 10 minutes and 11 seconds and finished 49 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Alison Coyle from Australia. Whipple's mark was the second-fastest among all 705 female competitors competing in the world championship.
Early this month Whipple was the first female to cross the finish line at the USA Triathlon CSTV Collegiate Nationals Championship. Her time of 1:55:17 was nearly three minutes ahead of the next finisher. Due to cold water temperatures, the event was changed to a duathlon, comprised of a 2.5k run, 40k bike and 10k run.
``That ended up being beneficial to me since the bike and run are my strongest events,'' Whipple said. ``I had never biked so well. I'm hoping I'd still have won the race with the swim. It would have been more fun if it was a full triathlon.''
Whipple will consider her athletic future when she makes the decision on how to start her military career this fall. Enlisting in the Marine Corps, for example, would offer more training options than the Navy does.
``She just has such incredible stamina and endurance,'' Navy track coach Carla Criste said. ``I definitely think she has Olympic potential, probably more so in the Olympic triathlon than the 10K. If she focused purely on running I have no doubt she'd be an All American just running, but she's putting in three or four hours a day on her triathlon training. But I think she could definitely be an Olympian in the future barring that nothing comes along.''
Whipple said the Olympics are in the back of her mind, and it's something that she will consider after her collegiate career.
``It certainly has crossed my mind,'' she said. ``I'm also real interested in trying to get into an Ironman competition. I've never done one, and I won't until I graduate, because I want to save my body for track and cross-country. But the great thing about this sport is that you don't peak until between ages 27 to 32.''
Whipple has miles to go before that.