Running has been part of Gabrielle Wilkinson's life since before she could walk. Her mother ran track in Jamaica. Her father ran hurdles in Trinidad, and her sister ran track at Cornell. Despite the legacy, she's had no problem making a name for herself in the running world.
Wilkinson, who lives in Wynnewood, has been running since she was 8. Before she started track, she played soccer as a right wing, a position that requires a lot of speed and endurance.
The Friends' Central School senior currently has the No. 1 time in the United States for three indoor high school track events – the 1,000 meters, the 1,500 meters and the mile. In the high school mile at the 2018 Millrose Games in New York on Feb. 3, Wilkinson surged at the end, beating favorite Katelyn Tuohy of North Rockland, N.Y., to finish in 4 minutes, 42.94 seconds.
"It's awesome," Wilkinson said of her achievement. "I work hard, so having all that work pay off is nice. It's nice to see those results."
Wilkinson's time topped the previous best this year, a 4:43.62 that was turned in by Tuohy at the Millrose Games trials.
Wilkinson also won the 1,500 at Millrose in 4:24.34. Her best time in the 1,000 is 2:50.35, and the 800 is 2:10.81.
Wilkinson went to Friends' Central in seventh grade already experienced in track, and athletic director Michelle Crowley, also the track coach, recognized that Wilkinson was special when they met seven years ago.
"Gabrielle came to FCS having a very knowledgeable background of what she wanted to accomplish as a runner," Crowley said. "She makes my job look really easy as a coach. She takes everything in stride, pun intended, and is willing to put herself out there and try new things."
The track program at the school is close-knit and has an emphasis on team culture despite the idea that it's also an individual sport. Wilkinson's father, Gregory, credits Friends' Central for developing his daughter's character on and off the track.
"The school loves her. She loves the school," Gregory Wilkinson said. "She will give her all to anybody who is willing to accept her."
"So many people come up to me and say she's so great, positive and humble," Crowley said. "That's the person she is. I'm there to help her and support her, but she came in with this sort of way about her."
The people who Wilkinson have met through running, on and off her team, are part of what makes her experience worthwhile, she said.
"Travelling and competing with people from different walks of life and places" is the best part of running, Wilkinson said. "To be able to travel to meets and make new relationships and to compete with the fastest girls in the nation is really a good experience."
Wilkinson will have plenty of opportunities to travel for track and field when she attends the University of Florida in the fall. While the year-round warm weather is definitely a plus, she decided on the campus in Gainesville because of the coaching staff and team atmosphere. The school's physiology and kinesiology program was instrumental in her decision as well because she wants to go into sports medicine.
Florida also has a history of churning out Olympic athletes, including six medal winners in track and field in the 2016 Summer Olympics alone.
Her goal is to compete and win in the NCAA championships and eventually make it to the Olympics. For now, she'll finish out her indoor track season and head outdoors in the spring when she hopes to make an impact at the Penn Relays.