Over the course of the summer, we are going to be highlighting an unsung hero from each of our 15 athletic programs on lagrangepanthers.com. These special student-athletes flew under the radar but were of utmost importance to the success of the team.
Karli Whitaker's speed has come in handy for multiple teams at LaGrange College.
The rising senior has been the third-place finisher for the cross country team five times. On the softball diamond, the Winder, Georgia, native has stolen 17 bases and has shown great ability in the outfield with her speed, arm strength and instincts.
She has been a three-year student-athlete for both programs and has made a considerable impact. Whitaker is primed for a sensational 2021-22 season in both sports.
"The thing we love most about Karli is her team-first mindset," said LaGrange College softball head coach Jennifer Claybrook. "She is always up on the fence in the dugout cheering on her teammates and sets a great example with her work ethic. Karli has come a long way as an outfielder, and we envision her being a pivotal player in 2022."
Whitaker made 10 putouts, stole six bases and scored five runs in 12 games during the 2021 season. As a rookie in 2019, the early childhood education major stole nine bases and crossed home six times.
"The great thing about Karli is her attention to detail," said Claybrook. "It is difficult to sit on the bench for six innings, and then get called into a pinch-running role in a tied game during the seventh. She always stays ready and rises to the occasion whenever her number is called. Karli has stolen some huge bases during her career."
During the 2021 cross country season, Whitaker finished in the Panthers' third slot for the fifth time in her career at the Berry College Invitational on Feb. 13, covering the 6-kilometer course in a time of 34:24.0.
She finished in LC's third position three times during the 2019 campaign. Whitaker set a personal record of 30:08.43 in the 6 kilometer at the USA South Championship. As a sophomore, the young woman clocked a personal-best effort of 26:47.00 in the 5 kilometer at the Foothills Invitational.
"In many ways cross country is an individual sport, but Karli does an outstanding job encouraging her teammates," said LaGrange College cross country head coach Jasen Jonus. "She has a great relationship with her teammates and always approaches practices with a positive outlook. Karli has developed into a superb runner and brings out the best in all members of the team."
Assistant Sports Information Director Trevor Wenners can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.