Rifle’s Wagler signs with Abilene Christian University
Just two weeks after capping off a stellar cross country career at Rifle High School, senior Sarah Wagler has set her sights on the college level, signing Wednesday evening on the first day of the NCAA’s early signing period with Abilene Christian University, inside the student library at Rifle High School in front of family, friends and coaches.
The standout distance runner, who won three cross country meets this season and placed in the top 6 an astounding 14 times this fall and holds Rifle’s school record for time in cross country and the 3200m in track, will run both cross country and track at Abilene Christian as a member of the Wildcats.
Wagler, the daughter of Randy Wagler and Stephanie Beach Charboneau, took a trip to Texas in September, where she stayed with two members of the girls cross country team, touring the campus.
A few weeks later in October, after being offered an academic and athletic scholarship, the senior made her decision to become a Wildcat, spurning Grand Canyon University, where her older brother, Brendan, runs track and cross country.
“I just really liked the campus and how it felt being down there,” Wagler said. “The people there are very nice, and the running programs are very good. Plus, I just liked what they stand for down there. They’re a Christian school, which is definitely what I was looking for. The environment there was just really compelling for me, too.”
Wagler will join a cross country program that currently ranks No. 2 in the South Central region, which also played a part in the Rifle senior signing up to be a Wildcat under cross country and track & field head coach Lance Bingham.
Being a dual athlete in both cross country and track & field could be difficult for the Rifle standout, but she seems more than prepared for it, having put in a ton of training over the last few years in distance running.
“I just really like them both, to be honest,” Wagler said following the signing ceremony. “Getting a chance to compete in both sports was definitely something I was looking for. Both Abilene and Grand Canyon offered me for both, but I just really love Abilene. It fits me.”
Aside from athletics, Wagler hasn’t decided quite yet what she’ll major in at Abilene, but for now she’s looking into studying Family and Children Ministry with a minor in English.
While on the visit to the campus back in September, Wagler wasn’t able to meet up with some of the professors in those respective fields, but she did get a chance to see what some of the classrooms would be like, with the largest classes having 200 or so students, while the average student-teacher ratio is around 14:1, according to Wagler.
This fall at Rifle, Wagler really took the Western Slope by storm, racking up three individual wins, 14 top-6 finishes and a 21st-place finish at the 3A state meet, turning in a personal-best time of 19:03 during the season. Although she set a goal prior to the season of cracking the 19-minute mark and ultimately came up short, her fall season was something to remember, which ultimately played a role in her earning the scholarship offer from Abilene.
Now that cross country season is over, Wagler turns her attention to track & field, where she’ll compete for the Bears in the 1600m and the 3200m. With the weight of a college decision now off her shoulders, Wagler can focus on reaching the podium in her respective events.
“Those are kind of my basic goals, on top of setting new personal records,” Wagler said. “But I also have added incentives to shave time off of both events because Abilene said they’d add onto my scholarships if I shave 10 seconds off of my 1600 time and 20 seconds off of my 3200 time, so that’s something that’s really going to drive me.”
Wagler will certainly have her work cut out for her not only this spring for the Bears, but for the next four years at Abilene Christian. Fortunately, she’ll be in great hands moving forward as the Wildcats recently won their second Southland Conference cross country title this fall.
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Fans, players and coaches on both sides of Stubler Memorial Field seemed to know it would come down just the way it did, regardless of who had the ball at the end.