ASHWAUBENON, Wis. (WBAY) - Victory at last!
Ashwaubenon's Tannor Wagner always had the potential to become a state champion, but the long distance runner had to battle injuries, illness, and adversity to finally get the job done in the 1600 meter run at last week's state track met in La Crosse.
“I did it! It hit me when I cross the finish line,” Wagner said. “I looked up at the scoreboard right away and had to process it.”
He's had to process a lot through a high school career that started with so much promise. His freshman year he took 14th place at state in cross country, then 7th place in the mile in track.
“I knew I had a bright future, but sophomore year I got injured,” Wagner said.
A foot injury couldn't stop him from reaching state in the fall and spring as a sophomore, but he didn't win. And then things got even worse as a junior.
“Cross country was a struggle (as a junior),” Wagner said. “That's when I was diagnosed with anemia. That was a big transition into working with my iron levels and my body.”
Anemia stole the strength and stamina he trained so hard to achieve.
“It's an iron deficiency,” Wagner explained. “It just lowers by red blood cell count. Can't make enough red blood cells in my body and then can't carry enough oxygen so it really affects how I race and train.”
He thought it was all figured out in track his junior year. He was the top-seeded miler at state, by a mile.
“I had ran 4:10,” Wagner recalls. “I was going to go after that state title and came 50 meters short in the mile. I had the lead with 50 meters to go and I just couldn't hold it together and I fell apart in the home stretch.”
He still had a chance to win the 800 that year, but inexplicably false starter to earn a DQ.
Wagner was crushed.
But he moved on, chose Wisconsin as his college destination, then set his sights on a state title for his senior season. But the stars refused to align without coercion. He missed nearly all of his senior track season, returning from injury and illness with only 5 weeks left before state. He only raced in the 1600 once before regionals. His dream was slipping away.
“It worried me a lot actually,” Wagner admitted. “I didn't even know if I was going to make it back in the season. “
He made it back, and back to the race where he came so close last year. This time, Wagner took the lead with a lap to go, and only got stronger as he circled the track towards destiny as the state champion he always knew he could be.
“I put in so many years of hard work,” Wagner explained. “Finally, it paid off. It's the best thing I've done so far.”
One goal down? Another rises up.
At Wisconsin next season, Wagner has one goal.
“My goal as a freshman is to break 4:00 in the mile,” Wagner said. “Right when I want to get to college, that's the first thing I want to accomplish.”
As always, he won't get there by talent alone. He's overcome a lot, building the mental fortitude to see his goals through.
“Hard work means a lot more (than talent),” Wagner said. “To a degree I have talent, but people don't see what you do in the weight room. They don't see what you do on those negative-degree days in the winter when you're out on a long run.”
Wagner’s high school coach, Cal Kromm, has never worked with a more talented runner, and believes that 4-minute mile is easily within reach.
“Oh yeah,” Kromm said. “He's a freak. He's got that rare combination of foot speed and strength. I'm going to miss him a ton. I don't think I've ever been closer to another athlete.”