Wynnewood – Friends’ Central School senior track standout Gabrielle Wilkinson was born to run.
Born into a family who experienced success in track and field, Wilkinson dreamed of following in the footsteps of her family members starting with her grandfather, Mervin Wilkinson, a quarter-miler; her mother, Lola Sergeant, and older sister Elyse specialized in the 800 meter run; and her father, Gregory Wilkinson, was a hurdler.
By age seven, Gabrielle was ready to go from spectator to participant.
“My sister was a fast runner who had run a 2:25 800 meter at age nine,” said Gabrielle. “Seeing her do spectacular things just motivated me and I wanted to be just like her. She was my role model.”
From the moment she stepped onto the track it was easy to see the running gene had certainly been passed down. At the tender age of 11, Gabrielle realized this is what she wanted to pursue when she broke the 800-meter record at the Colgate Women’s Games, posting a time of 2:18.
“It was at this moment that I realized that hard work pays off and I knew that if I continued to work hard and stay determined, then anything would be possible,” Wilkinson said.
On Nov. 10, Wilkinson turned her first dream into reality when she signed her National Letter of Intent to attend the University of Florida in front of family, classmates and teammates in Shimada Gymnasium. Wilkinson, who plans to major in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology, hopes to play a key role in helping the Gators develop a strong distance program.
“This was a day I had always dreamed of,” said Wilkinson, who donned a University of Florida T-shirt as she signed her National Letter of Intent. “I have been running for over 10 years and it was a great feeling to see all of my hard work culminate in this special moment. I have worked really hard to get to this point in my life. However, I couldn’t have done it without the help of my parents, my sister, and coaches and friends. Being able to share this moment with my school and surrounding community was very special.”
Friends’ Central athletic director Michelle Crowley added, “Gabrielle is a tremendous athlete and person! What it means to me to have her representing Friends’ Central is exciting. She has innate ability, but her character and selflessness as a runner is striking. She will do anything for her team, even if that means giving up an individual event so that more girls can run. She is giving to her teammates and her classmates, going out of her way to say or do something nice. I am so blessed to have been able to coach her and share in her success. I can’t wait to see what the next four years have in store for her.”
As Wilkinson prepares for final spring season, her imprint on the program has already been felt. Currently, Wilkinson holds six individual indoor records (600 meters, 800 meters, 1500 meters and the mile set at the 2016 New Balance Games and the 1,000 meters at the 2015 Armory Track Invitational) and the 3,000-meter along with being part of a relay team that holds two records (Distance Medley Relay set at the New Balance Indoor Nationals and the 4×800 set at PTFCA Indoor Carnival).
Wilkinson also holds three outdoor individual records (800 meter run, set at the Hoka One One John Hay Memorial Pennsylvania Distance Festival; 1,600 meter run, set at the PA Independent Schools championships; and the 3,200 meter run, set at the 2016 Hurricane Classic) along with part of three relay teams (4×800 at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals; 4×800 at the PA Independent Schools championship and the Distance Medley Relay at the Penn Relays)
While the records are nice, it will be the experiences that track has afforded her that she will remember most, especially at the Penn Relays, where she has gone from helping her mother, an official, to being part of the Distance Medley Relay team that set a carnival record for Friends’ Central in 2016.
“My experience at Penn Relays has been amazing,” said Wilkinson. “It was a dream come true to have the opportunity to run on that track against very talented competition.”
With her college decision handled, Wilkinson can now turn her focus to creating more lifetime memories for herself and her teammates during the upcoming indoor and outdoor seasons.
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