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Track freshman Bella Whittaker is getting adjusted to her first semester on campus and hopes to be able to compete in the upcoming season. (Photo from Bella Whittaker)

The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down with women's track freshman Bella Whittaker to ask her 15 questions about her sport, her time at Penn, and her life overall. Here's what she had to say. 

1.  Can you introduce yourself? 

I’m Bella Whittaker, and I am a freshman in the College from Laurel, Md. I am currently undecided for my major.

2.  When did you first start running track?

I started at the end of my freshman year of high school. I was a competitive swimmer for six years and during my first two years of track, before focusing solely on track starting my junior year.

3.  Why did you choose to run at Penn? Do you like or regret your decision so far?

I remember my official visit, and I could really see myself there. I really liked the people, and the vibe on campus. I really liked the coach, but sadly she is at Dartmouth right now. However, I am definitely excited to run under my new coach. No regrets so far.

4.  As a freshman, how are you finding the adjustment process of living away from home?

It’s definitely a little bit harder than if COVID-19 wasn’t a thing. I have a lot of free time, but there aren’t enough things on campus to do this semester to take my mind off academics. It’s only been three weeks and it’s just beginning to hit me that I am away from home.

5.  Despite Penn's COVID-19 restrictions, did you feel that you were still able to makes a lot of new friends in this pandemic year?

Not really, but I’m lucky since I'm already a part of team, I already have a close group to rely on. However, I haven’t been able to connect with most of my people in my classes due to online learning.

6.  How has the track team coped with the pandemic this year?

It’s definitely been hard on all of us, no matter what year we are in, but we have been trying to stay in close contact with each other and maintain the social bonding experience through frequent Zoom meetings throughout the first semester.

7.  What is the current status of your track season? Have you started practicing yet?

We were supposed to have our first day of practice on Feb. 1, but it was canceled due to the snow. I’m crossing my fingers that we will be able to compete, but the spring sports season status for the Ivy League is still up in the air.

8.  What events are you most looking forward to competing in this season or in the future?

I’m looking forward to competing in the 200-meter and 400m outdoor, and the 300m and 500m indoor. The 300m indoor is probably my favorite race.

9.  Do you have any pre-game rituals?

I wear the same socks for every meet, and I love listening to my race day playlist before each meet, and I do a quick prayer before every run.

10. What is your favorite thing about Penn’s campus?

I really like the murals around Philadelphia and near Penn Park, and the entire city vibe in general.

11. Do you have a favorite professional athlete or team?

My favorite sprinter is Allyson Felix, and my favorite distance runner is Nikki Hiltz. I don’t really follow professional team sports that much.

12.  Did you pick up any hobbies during quarantine?

I started playing the ukulele. It was really easy to pick up, and it was a great stress reliever.

13. How have you found online learning to be last semester and this semester so far?

It’s kind of hard because I have never experienced college as a regular student, but I do feel that is a lot more work than a regular in-person class because there are a lot of video lectures to watch in addition to attending class, and you cannot afford to fall behind due to the amount of work given in each class.

14. Have you gotten a chance to explore the city yet? If you had 24 hours to do whatever you wanted in Philadelphia, what would you do? 

I went on a Philly cheesesteak tour with some of my teammates, and we went to Pat’s, Geno’s, and Jim’s. Jim’s was my favorite of the three. I would want to go on a warm day and walk down to Center City and just explore around.

15. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? 

I’ve always wanted to go to India. I’d have to do more research, but I would love to explore around both the major cities and the rural areas.

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