Prep of the Year: Gillian Wagner By Jordan Overmyer

At this year’s Senior Athletic Banquet, there was one athlete highlighted throughout the night, a name that would be remembered by most of those in attendance—Gillian Wagner. It was clear that over the course of the last four years, she was a standout athlete and notorious cross-country and track star. Wagner didn’t start running competitively until her freshman year. Since then, she has practiced year round and put in hours of training that has not only made her a name in the Redwood community, but also in the state and nationwide, as a track and cross-country competitor.

Photos by Jacob Klionsky

“I think over the four years, I’ve definitely fallen in love with running. Running has crept into my life and has really become a major part,” Wagner said. “Doing it for so long you learn a lot about yourself through the sport.”

Wagner’s records and times speak for themselves. This year she was named 2018 MCAL (Marin County Athletic League) Champion in the 800, 1600 and 3200. In 2017, she was the D3 Cross Country State Champion, MCAL Champion and North Coast Section (NCS) Cross Country Champion. In 2016, she was the D3 Cross Country State Runner-up and MCAL and NCS Runner-up Cross Country Champion.

In 2015, 2016 and 2017 she was the MCAL 800 Champion, and for all four years of her high school career she was a NCS Scholar Athlete. Furthermore, she holds records for the 3200 and 1600 for both Redwood and MCALs.

More recently, she now holds the record in the 1600 after this years NCS meet. She also won an award from the Marin Athletic Foundation at the Senior Athletic Banquet that recognizes a student for their athletic involvement, leadership, deportment and school and community involvement.

Principal David Sondheim spoke to Wagner’s success.

“She is both an amazing athlete and a wonderfully nice person. It is great to see her positive attitude, her ethic of hardwork and the success that she’s had. She is a model for all our athletes,” Sondheim said. “What’s wonderful about watching her run is that it looks like she's just having a good time. The thought of running as far as she runs and her having a good time and doing as well as she does is an amazing thing to watch.”

Starting in the fall of 2018, Wagner will be attending and running for Princeton University.

“I think it will be a big adjustment just because there are so many girls that are crazy good in college,” Wagner said.

Teammate junior Liam Anderson has witnessed Wagner grow as a runner for the past three years.

Photo courtesy of Gillian Wagner

“She’s out there every single day really willing to put in the work and she’s always striving to get better and be better and that shows up in the results,” Anderson said.

Anderson said he believes that her hard work is translated to her teammates.

“Every year she’s been here, [the girls’ team] has won MCALs,” Anderson said. “She takes her work really seriously and she knows you get out what you put in. That attitude is projected onto the team, especially the girls’ team.”

According to Wagner, her freshman and sophomore year she was a strong asset to the team, but it wasn’t until her junior year where she was the clear standout runner of the team.

“That’s when I had a breakthrough in cross country. My times literally got better and I was a better runner, but I also gained a lot of confidence and that helped,” Wagner said.

Anderson also said that her confidence is what makes her so strong on the track.

“She runs a lot more confidently than a lot of other runners do. She can run from the front of the race and lead the whole way or she can run from the middle or back of the pack. No matter where she is in the pack, she runs like she’s in control of the race,” Anderson said. “You know when it comes to who is going to be crossing the finish line, she knows that she is in the right spot to do that.”

As for the future, Wagner hopes to continue running for the rest of her life.

“Running faster, having fun and being on a good team for me will be success,” Wagner said.

Being on the Redwood team gave Wagner an outlet and eased her transition into high school.

“Coming from a school that wasn’t a feeder school to Redwood, [the cross country team] was definitely a really nice thing to have when I was a freshman and sophomore to meet people. Redwood is a big school and everyone always says, ‘Find your thing’ so it’s been nice all four years to have something that is pretty defining,” Wagner said. “I would never say that I’m just a runner, but it’s become a large part of who I am, and I think it’s made high school more fun and easier.”

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