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Now-junior Phoebe White competes in the women's 800-meter run during the Penn Challenge at Franklin Field on March 19. Credit: Kylie Cooper

Penn cross country junior Phoebe White is a self-driven runner, student, and person, but she is also one part of a reliable pack of fellow runners.

At the Quakers' first meet of the season, White notched the second-best finish among her teammates, finishing 21st out of 99, and since then has proved several strong races.

Having run alongside many others her whole life, White serves as a dependable leader for the Red and Blue, though she attributes much of her success and motivation to her teammates. 

Running runs in White’s family. With two runners for parents, White found athletic success in youth soccer as being “the fast one.” Moving into a rigorous and storied high school program that was nationally competitive, she was inspired by running beside high school runners at the highest level in the country as a freshman.

“That really got me into the sport and I was just kind of hooked,” White said. “NCAA running, at the highest level, is basically pre-professional. It's been really cool to be in some of the same meets as girls who are going pro in the next year or two.”

Now, White carries that sentiment into her career as a Quaker. 

White is driven by being on a team with other runners who, like her, “want to achieve athletic excellence while also being at such an academically rigorous school.”

Associate head coach Matt Gosselin described White as “disciplined,” “high-achieving,” and having “a good understanding of her sport.” Though she already came to Penn with self-motivation, he noted her development of “maturity and flexibility” as standout qualities, maintaining her high expectations for herself while simultaneously rolling with the punches.

As a mid-distance runner, White’s contributions to the Quakers’ competitive success this year have been huge, according to Gosselin. He envisions her as an integral piece of one of the track season relays, either the distance medley or Penn’s traditionally successful 4x800.

This year, White has run with what she calls a pack: a group of the same four runners who run together for every workout. In races, they strive to execute exactly the same as in practice. White labels having “constants around [her]” as one of the contributing factors to her recent success.

Though she may be a pack runner, that does not devalue her strong, individual leadership qualities. 

“She’s not afraid to lead by action,” Gosselin said. “She will be the person to lead workouts and she will be the person to push workouts along.”

White’s leadership and confidence have shifted and grown. Rather than letting her nerves get the best of her as she did in past seasons, she now focuses on visualizing her race process along with the feelings that come with each stage of the race. Identifying when she needs to be more urgent on the track helps her feel more in control.

The Quakers see her this way too. Gosselin notes that her teammates see her as a dependable, steady teammate who “has a pretty good pulse of what's going on … the team relies on her to be steady and disciplined.”

Based on the way she describes her community of runners, it's no surprise that they know exactly what to expect from White. She describes the team as very close with an unmatched level of support for one another, which is crucial in such individual and mental sports.

Day in and day out, White shows up to “work hard,” “[suffer],” and “bond” with her pack. Based on her and Gosselin's commentary, one can deduce that it's a two-way street: her pack feels the same way about her.