York College senior Katie Wagner became the 15th player in York College women's basketball history to reach 1,000 career points during Wednesday's win vs. Wesley. Wagner and head coach Betsy Witman discussed the achievement after the game. Elijah Armold, York Dispatch
When Katie Wagner is handed her behavioral science degree later this year at York College, she’ll be far from finished.
It makes sense that grad school is next. It speaks to her tireless nature.
That same energetic essence will see her graduate as one of the most decorated athletes in school history and leave behind a legacy that exemplifies how to humbly handle being both a student and an athlete.
She’s likely to graduate as the most successful tennis singles player in Spartans history, she’s part of a rare club in women’s basketball and is a gifted student. By all accounts, however, it’s her modest, hard-working disposition that truly sets her apart.
And to think, some of her accomplishments nearly didn’t happen.
Nearly skipped tennis: Upon Wagner’s arrival at York College, she simply wanted to focus on playing basketball. Wagner had been a standout, multi-sport athlete at Susquehannock High School.
She won York-Adams League and District 3 Class 3-A singles crowns, and she was a 1,000-point scorer for the 2014 District 3 Class 3-A champion Warriors. Wagner was also a solid track-and-field performer.
“I wasn’t going to play tennis at first, actually,” Wagner said. “I was just like, 'I want to choose one, just focus on one for once.' Because all my life, I did track too, so it was always sport to sport and I never got to focus. But then I got here, and I met the tennis coach and someone talked to me and was like ‘you should come to practice.’”
Missing the sport, and with the proximity of her dorm to the courts further taunting her, Wagner was eventually talked into the idea, and said both coaches were very supportive and accommodating.
Described as a player with a big game whose main weapon is the forehand, her tennis prowess has produced 37 singles victories so far. That total is the most in women’s program history. With six more wins this spring, she’ll become the winningest singles player in York College history, male or female.
York College tennis coach Ryan Weber says Wagner’s lasting impact on the program will be raising the competitive nature of the team through her contagious, never-quit attitude.
With Wagner anchoring the No. 1 singles spot throughout her career, the Spartans have produced 10-plus win seasons the past two campaigns and are likely to do it again this season.
“Katie leads quietly and by example. She always gives 100 percent, whether it’s practice or a match,” Weber said. “She’s made us more competitive, results wise, but also made our practices more intense and physical. These tougher practices have benefited the entire team.”
Ever-improving basketball player: On the hardwood, it’s been a journey of steady improvement. She’s plied her typical, non-stop level of effort to a game that’s grown from contributing freshman into unquestioned team leader.
During this, her final season for the Spartans (14-7 overall, 10-4 Capital Athletic Conference), Wagner leads the team in scoring at 13.8 points per game. Her offense is often borne of quick transition layups coming off steals or defensive rebounds.
“She’s just one of those tough, gritty players that is a coach’s dream, that we were just fortunate to get her,” Spartans head women's basketball coach Betsy Witman said.
“She has meant so much (to the program). She is the most humble, selfless, team player that, like I said, is a coach’s dream. She plays hard every practice, every game. She’s all about team, she’s not about herself and that’s what makes her so special.”
Wagner’s whatever-it-takes attitude is often displayed in her stat lines. Not only is she the team’s scoring leader, she also has a Spartans-best 58 assists (2.9 per game) and team-high 45 steals (2.3 per game).
She also recently became the 15th player in program history to score 1,000 points for her career.
“It’s pretty cool that I’ve accomplished all that. But, I just love the team aspect of it, honestly,” Wagner said. “Without those girls, I could not score 1,000 points. They get me the ball, they know I’m running on fast breaks. And in tennis, the girls push me at practice. We play with the guys and they push me. Without everyone else, it honestly wouldn’t happen.”
All-around example: Wagner’s quick deflection of credit serves as an example of her trademark humility.
“Katie has been one of our most consistent performers, both on the floor and in the classroom. …She is a very humble person who is always looking to give credit to her teammates,” said Scott Guise, York's director of athletic communications “… She will be remembered as a fantastic dual-sport athlete who was an exceptional teammate and an exceptional student. I would expect her to be a York College Athletic Hall of Famer once she becomes eligible.”
Wagner’s multi-sport nature is becoming increasingly rare in an age of specialization and year-round commitment to a single sport. Moreover, her standout level of play in two separate sports is rarer still at the collegiate level, outside of similar sports such as track and cross country.
Her level of success on the courts is matched by her talents in the classroom. With a 3.58 grade-point average, Wagner has been a Capital Athletic Conference All-Academic Team selection every year and is on track to make it a clean sweep.
She credits athletic participation with providing her a balance that has helped the other areas of success.
“I just love it. I think it helps me in school and I’ve made so many friends from doing it,” Wagner said of playing multiple sports. “I feel like it keeps you on a schedule, it helps you with time management. I still feel like I have free time to hang out with my friends, too. I just couldn’t imagine my life at York without the sports I play.”
Elijah Armold is a sports reporter at The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org