Caitlin Poling

Age: 27
Hometown: Grosse Ile, Mich.
Political party: Republican
Relationship status: Boyfriend

Caitlin Poling lives for adventure.

The Foreign Policy Initiative’s director of government relations has a competitive edge, and in December will travel with her boyfriend to Puerto Rico to vie for the title of national champion of an urban scavenger hunt competition.

Each year, teams in Washington and other cities nationwide are given clues and riddles to solve, taking them all over their respective cities. It’s a brainy and physical race to the finish, a combination Poling knows very well.

This year, the couple took fourth place, she lamented. “But last year, we won,” she added quickly with a smile. The top 25 teams move on to nationals; this year the competition is located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Determined to win, she and her boyfriend opted to make the three-mile, uphill run for the finish line because of Metro delays that could put them way behind — even though the two of them were struggling to recover from the flu.

Poling works in a sector dominated by testosterone, concentrating her efforts on terrorism, homeland security and human rights worldwide.

Though she contends women were “pretty well represented” in her graduate securities studies classes at Georgetown — and the field contains many strong women — her age and her looks can make some men incredulous of her qualifications.

“They see this blonde girl coming up, and they’ll go, ‘What do you know about terrorism?’ ” she said.

That’s when she says she has to “drop some facts.”

She wrote her master’s thesis on an African terrorist organization, and recently returned from visiting India and Sri Lanka, where she discussed human rights and democracy issues in the latter country following its long civil war.

Her only weakness, she contends, are cupcakes. Asked to choose her favorite shop around town, Poling quickly responds: Sprinkles.

During Lent, she always gives up “sweets and pop,” she explains, making an exception for a cupcake award if she runs for a stretch of at least 10 miles.

“By the end, I’m just going ‘cup-cake, cup-cake, cup-cake,’ ” she said, pantomiming her running cadence.

— Megan R. Wilson

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