GRAY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Daniel Boone senior Andrew Whaley started running cross country and track in middle school – with tempered expectations.

“I was kind of just there to have fun and have a team to be with,” he said.

But, as he logged more miles, his mindset – and skillset – began to change.

“Once I started putting effort in, like, noticing the improvements in myself,” he explained.

That can happen, especially when your teammates become your best friends and motivators.

“They can help push you towards goals that you may think you might not be able to do,” he said. “Especially if they’re older or know more about the sport than you do.”

At the start, one of Whaley’s main goals was simply to learn how to run long distances.

“When I first started, I was running like just a mile,” he smiled. “and not a very good mile.”

And now, with that renewed effort and encouragement, his endurance has reached an all-time high.

“I’m up to seven miles,” he said.

Whaley prefers a sort of middle ground between the 5K distance of cross country and the speed required for shorter track events – it’s why he’s taken a liking to the 800 meter race.

“Sprinting is not my go-to,” he admitted. “But, the 800 is definitely my favorite because it’s faster, but still kind of distance.”

No matter the event, or the course, he’s learned one very important trait that has helped him as much during the school day, as it has afterwards.

“Running is a disciplined sport,” he said. “And so, if you’re going to be disciplined in running, you have to be disciplined in your studies.”

When he’s not running, Whaley keeps busy as a member of Beta Club, National Honor Society and Student Council – volunteering at events like freshman orientation.

“We can help tour families around the school and help the freshmen out,” he said.

Because sometimes service is its own reward.

“It’s just nice to help someone out,” he said.

Whaley plans to study accounting in college after graduation and also hopes to continue his running career.

“Just hoping to improve,” he explained.