Getting up to speed

Fallston senior Chris Wagner has emerged from disappointment last year to achieve state records and championship races

Track and field

April 15, 2007|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special To The Sun

Chris Wagner missed an indoor state championship in the 800-meter run by four-hundredths of a second last year. Then, in the 800 at outdoor states, he held the lead until the final half-lap before fading and finishing eighth after entering the race as the top-seeded runner in his class.

Those are two reasons why the Fallston senior has little trouble finding motivation this year.

"I kept remembering those two races in particular," Wagner said. "I'd have flashbacks ... at the end of a hard practice this winter. I had no desire to relive those experiences. I didn't like the feeling that I didn't accomplish a goal."

Wagner achieved one goal this winter, setting a state record in the 800 while winning the Class 3A-2A state championship - even though indoor track isn't an official sport in Harford County. Now he'd like to win another title outdoors.

Wagner ran cross country in the fall, even though he runs shorter distances in track. He then went undefeated indoors, edging Urbana's Nick Stine in the state title race in 1 minute, 57.04 seconds, a state record time for all four classes.

During the winter season, Wagner's teammates knew about his desire to win a championship. Some would jokingly walk by Wagner and say, "Here's the state champion."

"I never really had a weight on my shoulders," Wagner said. "It was more like there was something inside of me. It was never a bad thing. It was never a burden. It was more like a desire, and [then] it was an accomplishment."

Said Fallston indoor coach Jimmy Grant: "I think he really wanted to win a state title. I think that [last year] had a big impact on how he prepared this year. You don't get many chances to be in that situation."

Wagner wants more of those chances outdoors. He'll be running the 400 and 800 along with the 1,600 and 3,200 relays.

Wagner initially did not go into track with lofty expectations. He had played junior varsity lacrosse his freshman and sophomore years and joined the indoor track team just to stay in shape.

But after reaching the indoor state final last year, the 5-foot-9, 145-pound Wagner realized track might be his best sport.

"I finally decided I would put down my stick and pick up some [running] shoes," Wagner said. "The question was where could I have made a bigger difference. It was a tough decision, but the right decision."

Wagner, who will run for Army next year while studying biology or biochemistry in hopes of becoming an Army doctor, has become a team leader.

"I think that, because of Chris' leadership in cross country and track and field, the kids have bonded together," Fallston athletic director Dave Cesky said. "Kids always look for the leadership type of person."

Grant said the combination of leadership and talent makes Wagner a special athlete.

"We've probably had, in the time I've been here, four or five kids that have it," Grant said. "And it's hard to put your finger on what `it' is. But you know them right away when you see it."

That's why when Wagner always talks about his state championship as a team achievement, it's not surprising.

Wagner said the group of Cougars who spent all winter training together helped him get better and go undefeated and eventually set the state record.

In fact, he said that one of the most memorable moments of his winning the state title was seeing a bunch of teammates and friends waiting in the bullpen just past the finish line at Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex.

"I couldn't stop smiling, and all my friends were at the finish line," Wagner said. "It was more than a relief. I felt like I accomplished something, and it wasn't just for me, but it was also for my team."

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