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Tough as a Titan: Carrie Whisel '14

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Posted on Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Imagine being flown to an undisclosed location with nothing but a backpack and piercing anticipation of what’s to come. Feel your heartbeat banging on the walls of your chest and the butterflies running marathons in your stomach knowing that you were chosen for the adventure of a lifetime. Now imagine how alumna Carrie Whisel ’14 must’ve felt when she learned she was chosen as one of two finalists to test Columbia Sportswear gear during a seven-day outdoor excursion in some of the most extreme conditions. As part of Dick Sporting Goods’ (DSG) Team of Toughness, Carrie discovered how tough she truly can be.

After graduating from Westminster in 2014 with a degree in psychology and minor in human resources, Carrie embarked upon a career with DSG as part of the University Relations team. Within two years of working for DSG, she was promoted to campus recruiter. Although traveling to different college campuses to meet students can be quite the adventure, applying to be part of DSG’s Team of Toughness proved to be the most thrilling adventure she’s had with the company thus far.

DSG’s Team of Toughness is a marketing campaign that was created in collaboration with Columbia Sportswear’s “Directors of Toughness,” a program led by Mark Chase and Faith Briggs who test gear for Columbia. Mark and Faith have faced some of nature’s many rushing waters, highest points and most extreme conditions. Two lucky finalists would be given the opportunity to accompany them during their next expedition.  DSG employees from all over the country were encourage to apply by submitting a one-minute clip detailing why they are “tough.” 

“I had waited until the last minute to submit an application, because I honestly didn’t think I would get chosen,” admitted Carrie. “I created my video haphazardly on my iPhone and hoped for the best!”

Much to Carrie’s surprise, she was contacted a few days later informing her she was one of 10 associates chosen to interview out of 100+ video submissions. Soon after, she was flown to Boulder, Colo., for an interview that was no ordinary interview. Her day started with a 5 a.m. wakeup call and hike up the scenic, breathtaking Realization Point Trailhead. After completing the arduous climb, Carrie immediately sat down for an intense round of questioning that further tested her grit. Leaving her best efforts at the top of Realization Point, Carrie headed back home to Pittsburgh. A few days later, she was surprised with confetti and a letter notifying her that she had been selected as one of the “toughest.” Before she knew it, her ticket to Portland was booked, and she was on her way to meet with Columbia’s marketing team and the Directors of Toughness, Mark and Faith. 

Carrie arrived to Portland, Ore., with nothing but a backpack and excitement to start her two missions alongside her associates. The group received their first assignment after arriving in the San Juan Islands, off the Washington coast. Tasked with learning to sea kayak, finding a pod of orcas, camping on an island, jumping off a cliff and trail running up the side of a mountain, the group only had 48 hours to complete their mission. With nearly a half an hour to spare, the team tackled their goals and were awarded a note detailing mission two—summiting one of the snowiest mountains in the lower 48, Mount Baker. 

“I had never gone mountaineering and this challenge proved to be the hardest for me, both physically and mentally,” Carrie shared. “Summiting a mountain is a long venture.”

The group began their trek with a four-hour hike to base camp (5,000 feet) at the base of a glacier.  Once they reached their destination, Carrie and her team set up camp for the night and prepared for the 16-hour trek that began at 2 a.m. the next morning.

“Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worse through the night pushing our start back to about 5 a.m. Nevertheless, we were determined to see how far we could get.”

After about four hours into the summit bid, the group got caught in another treacherous storm including hail, snow, and rain mixed with 40 mph winds. For safety reasons, the team was forced to turn around at about 7,800 feet. Although they did not reach the summit, Carrie still felt the experience was a success.

“All in all, this was an adventure of a lifetime,” Carrie said. “I have been blessed with some amazing opportunities with Dick’s Sporting Goods. The chance to embark on these adventures on behalf of DSG & Columbia Sportswear has definitely taken the top of the list.” 

Now that Carrie is back to work at DSG, she hopes to be involved the Team of Toughness campaign in some capacity in the future. In the meantime, she’s back to doing what she loves to do—help college students find their passions and careers just like Westminster helped her.

“My experience at Westminster consistently pushed me out of my comfort zone, whether in the classroom or with a variety of extracurricular activities.  At the time, you may not realize the importance a class plays into your future career, especially if it doesn’t seem applicable at the time. I value Westminster for providing me the chance to find my strengths and opportunities.” 

Photo and video links courtesy of Carrie Whisel and Team of Toughness

Interview in Boulder, COFinal Adventure – San Juan Islands; Final Adventure – Mt. Baker