It was Lexi Whitman’s sophomore year at College of the Canyons and George Serrano, track and field assistant coach, was discussing strategy with her before the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) cross-country State Championship meet.
Serrano recommended that Whitman start the race’s first mile really hard.
Worried that his strategy would backfire, Whitman asked, “What if I die out?”
“But what if you don’t?” said Serrano in response.
Whitman followed her coach’s advice and the risk paid off. She placed 18th in the field of more than 200 runners.
“We spend so much time thinking about if the risks we take will backfire and what will happen then, but we never consider the outcome if the risk is fruitful,” said Whitman. “This piece of advice applies to other aspects of my life, and I think that’s why it has stuck with me.”
In sticking with this advice, Whitman has come a long way from the confused freshman she once was when she started attending COC in fall 2014.
Torn between two majors, the Valencia High School graduate viewed COC as a cost-effective alternative to attending a four-year university immediately after high school.
“I saw it as a great opportunity to explore my options before transferring,” said Whitman.
During her three years at COC, Whitman has done more than just explore her options — she has seized every single opportunity that has come her way.
Whitman was a key member of the college’s cross country program, helping the 2014 squad finish runner up at the that year’s state championship meet and coming back to help the team earn a third place finish at the state meet in 2015. She also earned All-Western State Conference honors both years.
As a member of the COC track & field team, she placed sixth in the state in the 10,000m, and 11th in the 5,000m event during the 2016 CCCAA State Championship meet. Earlier this spring she placed 10th in the 3,000m steeplechase at the CCCAA Southern California Championships.
When the dual-sport athlete transfers to California State University, Fullerton, in the fall to study filmmaking, she will be leaving COC with associate degrees in both filmmaking and liberal arts and sciences, and a 4.0 GPA.
“I have had so much fun being a two-sport athlete for COC,” said Whitman. “It is a challenge juggling sports and academics, but ultimately it has been so worth it.”
COC cross country/track & field head coach Lindie Kane says Whitman was a team leader through her entire time as a student-athlete.
“She leads by example and is a role model for her teammates on and off the field,” said Kane. “Lexi has been a tremendous asset to our program and a big part of our team success over the past few years. I know she will continue to excel as she moves to the next level.”
But Whitman’s time at COC wasn’t always a smooth sprint.
During her first season of track, Whitman suffered a devastating injury that benched her for four months and forced her to miss a majority of the season.
“It was the longest I had ever gone without running,” said Whitman. “It was terrible. With the help of the athletic trainers at COC, my coaches, teammates, and family, I kept my sanity through rehabilitation and I was healed in time for cross-country summer training.”
Whitman was set to transfer to a four-year school in fall 2016, but none of the schools felt like a right fit.
After consulting with her coaches and professors, Whitman took another risk. She decided to stay an extra year at COC.
“It ended up being a great decision because I was able to take more film classes and complete an internship with LA Film Locations,” said Whitman, who wishes to become a film editor for either film or television.
At LA Film Locations, which is a location service for the TV and film industry, Whitman answered phones from location managers and created aerials for production days.
“It was so cool being able to experience the film industry through that aspect of production,” said Whitman of her internship, which she landed with the help of the college’s Cooperative Work Experience Education (CWEE) program. “I learned more about what goes on behind the scenes before a production is even shot.”
Whitman is grateful to the COC coaches and professors who helped her find the direction she needed to pursue her goals.
“I could not have done it without all the help of these people,” said Whitman. “I would highly recommend other students get their start at COC. They have so many opportunities for students and the faculty is so helpful. Take advantage of everything the school offers because you never know where it could lead you.”