By Ned Bekavac
One can’t help but wonder how many hours there are in Alexis Wagner’s day.
The Guelph go-getter is seemingly here, there and everywhere.
“I guess I’ve just always loved the feeling of being involved with people who are out in the community and making a difference,” she says.
Wagner, who wrapped up her University of Guelph Gryphons field hockey career this past season, has been named recipient of W.C. Winegard Medal, as the University of Guelph’s top undergraduate.
Her jaw dropped when she got the news.
“Wow,” she says, on her reaction. “It’s incredible to be recognized for an honour like that.”
In classic selfless fashion, Wagner quickly passes praise on to those around her.
“It seems almost strange, because everything that they’re listing me being recognized for are things I did with other people as part of the University of Guelph community, or the greater Guelph community. I just think of it as – everything we do here is a team effort,” she says, during a recent chat at the school.
The 21-year-old is a graduate of Centennial CVI. During her last year there, she was the school’s senior female athlete of the year before she headed to her hometown university. Her mom, Liz, and dad, Kevin, are former U of G athletes also; mom played field hockey, and dad football.
Named for former U of G president Bill Winegard, the big award recognizes academic achievement and contributions to campus and community.
Wagner, a President’s Scholar, was a two-term student senator and vice-president (academic) of the Engineering Society at the U of G. Her research has been recognized by the American Society of Plastic Engineers, the Canadian Society for Bioengineering and Project SOY. She founded Guelph Golden Gears, a volunteer network of 150 engineering students; coached a youth hockey team; and volunteers for several community agencies, said a U of G news release,
She will be spending much of her summer in Europe with pal Sofia Oke, a fellow former Centennial CVI student and U of G President’s Scholar. On the heels of her earning the Winegard honour, the Trib caught up with Wagner for a Q&A. See below.
Q: Thinking back to your first time or times playing field hockey as a youngster – can you share a neat or funny story?
A: I started playing field hockey in Grade 6 so I guess I was already getting on in years!
I can still remember crying in the car on the way to my first Team Ontario tryout when I was in Grade 8. Confidence was always a challenge for me in sports, but I made the team as a random College Avenue kid from Guelph. Looking back at my ridiculousness helps me approach new situations with more gumption.
As a youngster I played a lot of hockey and soccer, starting as a Guelph Minor Hockey Association Timbit when I was five.
I was a really crafty kid and I would glue googly eyes on everything from rocks and sticks to crackers, and I would bring my masterpieces to the rink in my hockey bag or their shoe box houses. I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum.
Q: The Trib’s paying the tab. What’s your tipple, and where would you be having it?
A: Coffee with Frangelico, somewhere in Italy.
Q: Congrats on the Winegard honour. How did you get told about it, and what was your immediate thought/reaction?
A: I got an e-mail while I was sitting in the university centre, and my jaw just dropped.
To say I was shocked is a bit of an understatement, considering I am inspired everyday by the passion and commitment of my classmates. I am thankful that the honour reminded me to give gratitude to the superstars in my life – starting with my family, friends, and mentors.
Q: What are the three most-played songs on your iPod?
A: That Much is True, Frankmusik (my alarm); The Writer, by Ellie Goulding (on repeat when I study), Good Life, by One Republic (to end my day)
Q: Back in high school, you and your Centennial Spartans teammates earned an OFSAA silver medal in (ice) hockey. An OFSAA hockey medal for a Guelph school is rare. Where do you keep that medal today? And what’s something that jumps out at you about that season?
A: The medal is framed on my bedroom wall with our team photo. Being part of that hockey team was an amazing experience – kind of like a Disney sports movie.
I remember the elation of beating Southwood in CWOSSA just to qualify. I remember the tears in the changeroom after the final against A.B. Lucas.
But what I will remember the most is the journey that we took together. I was in Grade 10 and I had so much respect for our incredible leaders who went on to be leaders on their university teams. I can recognize in myself leadership skills passed down from the inspiring captains of that team. Every player knew their role and knew how important they were to the team.
I can also remember the team from Bishop Macdonell cheering us on in the finals, proving that Guelph pride transcends rivalries.
Also we bought a fish at Walmart and named it OFSAA – that’s hard to forget.
Q: Alive or not, who are three famous people you’d like to have over for dinner and drinks?
A: Georges Seurat, John Kenneth Galbraith, Terry Fox.
Q: You seem to have a never-ending list of contributions, going in several different directions. In this day of “Oh gosh, I’m so busy” – how the heck do you find the time?
A: I don’t watch T.V. and I have hated sleeping for as long as my parents can remember. In high school I was playing on several sports teams and driving to Toronto at least twice a week for long training sessions with Field Hockey Ontario. Coming into university, I just had to focus on one sport, I could walk to practice and we only travelled on weekends so university opened up a lot more time for me to explore other activities. I have a lot of energy so down time makes me antsy.
Lastly, I have an app on my laptop called Self-Control, which is specifically designed for people who have none. It limits internet access to white-listed websites or restricts black-listed websites and has been fantastic for keeping me focused.
Q: Traveling university athletes always have good road stories. Can you share one?
A: One of our greatest team efforts came about when our assistant coach mistakenly trusted us with the key to his hotel suite. He returned to find all the furniture flipped upside down and his trademark sneakers missing. At the CIS banquet one of our veterans came dressed as our coach – her costume was very convincing.
Q: What is a current pet peeve of yours?
Q: Where do you see yourself sports-wise and life-wise in, say, seven years?
A: As an athlete, my yoga-related goal is to be able to touch my toes by 2017. No matter where I end up, I will keep promoting and coaching field hockey because I love the sport and the friendships I have made along the way. Life-wise in seven years time . . . I don’t want to ruin the surprise!