When senior Gillian Wagner and junior Liam Anderson crossed the finish line on Nov. 25, not only did they each earn the title of Division III cross country champions, but they also made history. Their victories earned Redwood the first school to ever sweep the Division III individual titles in California.
The 31 CIF State Cross Country Championships were held on a three-mile course in Woodward Park, Fresno. Wagner, the only girl competing from Redwood, finished with a time of 17 minutes and 49.3 seconds. Anderson, who attended the race with the boys’ varsity team, ended with a time of 15 minutes and 10.3 seconds.
Out of the gates, neither intended to immediately lead the pack. Instead, each one waited to kick into gear until the last couple of hundred meters in their individual races according to Wagner. With about 150 girls in her division, Wagner was second for the majority of the run until there were about 400 meters to go, when she overpowered her competitors.
“My plan was just to go out with whoever took out the race from the gun and sit on them and wait until the end to kick in and take the win,” Wagner said.
Anderson ran in third for majority of the race before taking the lead in the last 200-300 meters.
“My plan was to sit and wait and then make my move whenever I felt it was the best time,” Anderson said.
Both Anderson and Wagner placed second last year.
“I got second last year so ever since then my goal has been to win. During the race, you just have to be patient because when you’re sitting back it can be nerve-racking to know that you’re behind these guys that could potentially just run away with the race,” Anderson said.
Because the course is the same every year, throughout their high school careers, Wagner has competed on this course a total of eight times and Anderson has run it six times.
“Last year, I was second and my teammate won so it was always in the back of my head throughout the season that it was something I could do. I went into it with the expectations to have a good meet and have fun but hoping a win would happen,” Wagner said.
According to Wagner, she has raced against a lot of the girls in her division and has been exposed to this level of competition throughout the season.
“I’ve learned how to, once the gun goes off, not think about anything or have any worries,” Wagner said. “I knew that it was just another race and I’ve done this a million times so I could do it one more time.”
Redwood cross-country coach Laura Schmitt has been alongside the pair through their high school careers and gave them a plan on how she wanted each of them to race the course.
“It’s interesting,” coach Laura Schmitt said in an interview with Marin IJ. “It’s really hard to ask people to perform on the day you’ve been planning for for three or four years. It’s so tough for it to come to fruition. They both raced beautifully.”