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 The first year after of high school can be filled with new challenges, unexpected success, surprising disappointment, homesickness, bad dining hall food, new friends and late nights.  Knowing the adjustment isn't always easy, we've asked ESPN RISE intern Hilary May, herself a high school standout at Corona del Mar CA and a collegiate runner at Harvard, to contact some of last year's top prep track and field athletes and find out how things are going...one year out.

                                                                  Bailey Wagner

"Seriously, we are all just one big happy family!"

Bailey Wagner conquered Illinois high school throws throughout career at Grant Community High School.  By the time she graduated in spring '08, Bailey was a three-time state champion and held over 50 records across the state.  Leaving her hometown of Lake Villa last fall, Bailey headed to Atlanta, Georgia to begin her first year at Georgia Tech.  

Now, Bailey has just completed her freshman year and is preparing for Jr. Nationals in Oregon.  Dyestat catches up with her to find out how adjustment to life as a Yellow Jacket went.

Firstly, how are you? How do you like Georgia Tech and its track and field program?

I am very happy with where I am in my life right now. I am currently training here in Illinois back at my old high school. I'm getting ready for Jr. Nationals in Oregon, which is the weekend of June 26. I love Georgia Tech! It's my home away from home. I was never a big city girl, but Atlanta is just perfect for me. Our campus is beautiful and I don't think I would be happy at any other school. I enjoy being a part of the Georgia Tech program. As an athlete, we receive a lot of help with our academics and with the transition from high school to college. The track program is amazing! It is well put together and even though we had a young team this year, we still did very well as a team and kept up with the elite athletes.
Complete this sentence: My freshman year was...
...an experience of a lifetime! I made new friends and accomplished my goals in the classroom and on the field. 

What are your goals and have they changed after one year of college? Where do you see the Georgia Tech program taking you?

My goals are always changing year after year. I came into Georgia Tech with the goals of getting the school record in shot put, being All-ACC, and being an NCAA qualifier. I accomplished all of those goals and continued to strive for new goals as the season went on, to push myself even harder as I improved. My goals for next year are to get the discus school record and make it to Nationals in both the indoor and outdoor seasons. I also want to finish better in the ACC for both indoor and outdoor next year. The Georgia Tech program and my coach have helped me a great deal to improve my technique and strength and I see how the program at Tech will take me to a National Championship and on to becoming an elite athlete that is able to compete in the Olympics.

How rigorous is college training versus high school training? What are the major differences? Similarities? Is competing different?

College training versus high school training is very different in some areas and similar in others.  Some of the major differences are in the travel, weight lifting, schedules and coaching styles. In high school, we all followed the same schedule:  practice in the morning before school, drills and weight lifting after school.  Now in college, all the throwers have different class schedules and not every thrower throws all the events like high school throwers normally do. The practices are at different times and on some days, you will only practice one event instead of two or three. With the weightlifting, all the athletes are on their own. We receive workouts from our coach at the beginning of the week and we are each responsible to get the lifting done during our free time which requires us to push harder everyday if we want to get better. Similarities are that we practice with our closest competition everyday…our teammates.  The concept of throwing and improving your distances is the same as in high school - each one of us is always striving to gain small improvements every week. One of the major differences in college is the travel all over the country instead of just within your state and county. In high school, you always knew your competition and how far they threw and where you would most likely end up placing. In college, there are so many more athletes from different places, age levels and regions, that it is very difficult to keep track of everyone's numbers.  

What sort of strength and conditioning do you do? Is it much different than your high school routine? Do you find it helpful?

For our workouts to improve strength and conditioning, we do a lot of power lifts.  For speed and conditioning, we run sprints and do agility exercises. It is not much different than high school, but in high school we did more endurance lifting with less weight and more reps. In college, it is more weight, and how explosive you can be. I think the lifting and conditioning we do is very helpful to my overall performance on and off the field.

Academically, how hard did you find Georgia Tech? How hard is it to balance schoolwork with throwing? What was your favorite class? What are you planning on majoring in?

Academically, Georgia Tech is hard, especially in math because it is an engineering school. It was not that difficult to balance my schoolwork and throwing because if you know how to manage your time, it all works out. My favorite class was health because I really like learning about exercising techniques and tricks to help your body perform at its very best. I am majoring in Business Management because I love the idea of running my own business one day and I really enjoy dealing with money and finances so I might also get a certificate in Accounting.

Is there time to party at Georgia Tech? Are you allowed to have a social life as a member of the track team? How do you balance your social life with academics and athletics?

There is always time for whatever you want to do at Georgia Tech and the surrounding Atlanta area, as long as you manage your time.  It is healthy to set aside time to have a social life and enjoy it because otherwise college life will pass you by so fast. As a member of the track team, we are allowed to have social lives but as an NCAA athlete, there are stricter rules that must be followed and if they are broken, there are severe consequences. With my priority in academics and athletics, my social life does sometimes take a back seat, but I balance it with focus during the week on school and track and then on the weekends, I am able to relax and hangout with my friends. 

Do you go to the football games? What are the football games like as a student? Do you go to other Georgia Tech sporting events? What is your favorite on campus thing to do? Is there a lot of school spirit?

I do attend the football games. I was at two of the home games as a spectator and the rest of them I worked for the catering company up in the sky boxes so I could have spending money during the off-season. The football games at Tech are crazy fun! There are tailgating, vendors everywhere, recruits coming in on visits, and a ton of school spirit and fans all over the campus. Other Tech sporting events are just as fun as the football games, but just not as popular. We Yellow Jackets have a lot of school spirit! We have a club called SWARM and they get t-shirts and the best seats to the baseball, softball, basketball, and football games. They are huge supporters of all the sports and its great to see them out at all the events. My favorite thing to do on campus is to spend time at the Campus Recreation Center swimming, shooting hoops and weight lifting. I'm a huge sport junky and I love to stay active!

What is your typical Saturday night like?

My typical Saturday night is dinner and getting ready with all the roommates.  We play great music; do our makeup and hair, share favorite clothes and get ready to go out for a fun night. We usually go hang out at the frat parties for a while and then after the frat parties, we head back to our dorm and hang out in our living room listening to more music, talking, dancing, anything really….just having fun enjoying each other's company.

What is your typical Monday night like?

My typical Monday night is practice and then weight lifting. After lifting, I go eat dinner in the Athletic Association Café and then head downstairs into the study hall room and study, work on homework and complete my hours. Once I have all of that done, I head back to my dorm and crash from a long day.

If you could do it all over again, knowing what you know now, would you still choose Georgia Tech?

Yes, I would still choose Georgia Tech! Knowing what I know now, how I have improved and that I am still learning and growing, I could not picture myself at any other school.  I love it at Tech!  They have everything I need to succeed, both on and off the track field. As long as I keep my head on straight, make my goals realistic and continue to push myself for bigger and better things no matter what obstacles I come across, I know that I will be a great thrower and successful graduate of Georgia Tech.

What is your favorite food in the dining hall?

My favorite food in the dining hall would be the chicken tenders and the bread rolls.

What was the transition from Illinois to Georgia like?

The transition from Illinois to Georgia was not that bad at all. Most everyone in Illinois did not really understand why I was going so far away, but I just looked at it as another chapter in my life to start fresh in a completely unknown place. I love adventures and challenges and that is how I looked at going to Georgia. It is hard sometimes being so far away from my family and having to fly home every time I want to see them, but my family supports me in so many ways and so we make it work no matter the cost or schedule conflicts.

What is the funniest thing that happened to you at practice at Georgia Tech?

The funniest thing that happened to me at practice at Georgia Tech would be when I was first learning how to throw hammer. I completely fell over on one of my turns and the guy throwers were cracking up and making fun of me. But hey, you cannot learn from your mistakes if you never make any.

What are Georgia Tech track athletes like? Are they different from other Georgia Tech students? Are they different from your high school teammates?  Do you feel like you fit in with them?

The track athletes at Tech are so friendly and welcoming and I knew I would fit in during my first visit with them right away. They do not judge you or look down at you.  They just take you as you are and accept you for that. Athletes at Tech are a little different than the regular students and we are basically one big family because we see each other so much and spend time with each other every day. My teammates now are a lot different than my teammates I had in high school. We compete with each other, but we respect each other's talents and praise each other and never bring the other ones down. I especially get along great with our two guy throwers, Steve and Andy. They are like my two big brothers who look after me and take care of me. Our throwers group is like one big family within our track team. We all get along, but we can also get on one another's nerves (just like family) but we always bounce right back to being friends.

What is the team dynamic like?

The team dynamic is encouraging and really great! We all feed off each other's accomplishments and push when one of us is struggling. We support and cheer each other on all of the time. It is great that we all truly get along and want everyone to do well in his or her individual events.

You broke the Georgia Tech school record indoors and outdoors in the shot put. How did it feel to stamp your name in the Georgia Tech record books? What were those record-breaking days of competition like? Were those throws surprises? How was your training going leading up to them? Does breaking these records change your goals looking ahead?

When I broke the school record in shot for the indoor season I was so happy. I could not stop smiling for a week! I felt so accomplished.   I just wanted to keep competing and raise the bar higher. I knew I could break the record; it was just a matter of when I could hit a good one. I threw the record in high school so it was a goal of mine to do the same in college. My goal after I got the record was to hit 50' for indoor but I came up a little short with a 49'11 ¾''...so that will be for next year.   Our training leading up was pretty consistent and ended with lightening my weights so I could peak at the Last Chance Meet at Virginia Tech. Breaking the record and having my name in the record books at Tech is an honor and has me striving for more.

What did you think of the indoor season? What were your successes and defeats training and competing indoors? Did you like throwing indoors?

I thought indoor season went very well. It was a learning experience for me as it was my first time throwing in college. I was just getting introduced to traveling as a team, the different indoor meet locations and formats, meeting the competition, throwing the weight for the first time and getting used to competing at an optimal level. I think my success during indoors was throwing well at every meet in the shot and learning the weight throw. The weight throw was a challenge for me, but I stuck with it and gave it my all. My defeats in the indoor season would be the disappointment I felt when I was not throwing that well in the weight throw. I practiced very well, and threw pretty far for a freshman, but when I got into the actual meets, I was never able to bring that practice mentality into the ring. I actually do not like throwing indoors and never really have. I am a very outdoor person so competing indoors does not always sit well with me.

What is the throws program like specifically?

The throwers program for this last year consisted of 4 women throwers and 2 men throwers. We had all four women throw hammer, two women threw shot put and two women threw discus. Both of our men throwers threw shot put and discus. Our throwers group is like a family.  The two guy throwers, Steve and Andy, are like older brothers. We all come from up north (Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin) so we get along great and understand each other. They helped me out a lot getting through freshman year by helping me with school, my social life, and supporting me in the throws and in the weight room. The three other women on our team, Megan, Kimery and Alana are my competition, but also my best friends. I actually lived with Megan and Kimery so we saw a lot of each other and supported each other in all we did. They all helped me out with my hammer because they each had at least a year of experience in it so I looked up to them for help in this new event. Seriously, we are all just one big happy family!

What is your relationship with the throws coach, Allen Bradd, like? How much do you communicate with him? What do you like about his coaching style? Is he different than your high school coach? Do you interact directly with the head coach Alan Drosky at all?

My relationship with Coach Bradd is all business. He does not want to hear about your life drama or who is dating whom…. He does not care and that is what I like about him. He is 100 % track and field all the time. When I show up for practice, there really is not much talking - it is a work atmosphere where you come to work and when you are done working and you have given it 100 %, then you can leave. I communicate a lot with Coach Bradd. We talk about diet, nutrition, and things to do differently in the weight room, and of course my technique in all of my events. I like how he tells me after every throw what I did wrong so I can feel it and fix it. I like how we work on our technique in practice instead of just trying to throw it hard and fast with no technique. Coach Bradd would rather have us throw about 80% distance with good technique then throw 100% distance with bad technique. Coach is just a little bit different than my high school coach, but that is one of the reasons why I like Coach Bradd and wanted to go to Tech - because he reminded me of Coach Cramer. I talk to Coach Drosky a lot. He is the head coach so whenever I have a question about the program or about our traveling plans I go to him. He is a very nice man and easy to talk to. He also respects me as an adult and an athlete so when I have suggestions or concerns he listens to me and usually guides me with ways to improve the issues.

What do you think of the ACC Conference? Was it more or less competitive than you expected?

The ACC Conference is awesome. We have a lot of great throwers in it, which gives me more motivation to beat the better competition. A lot of the women throwers are very nice and we all talk to each other during the meets. The ACC is just as I expected it to be. I think that the SEC is more competitive than our conference and we see some of the SEC schools during the season which helps us improve more because each athlete wants to do their very best at the meets no matter what schools are there. 

You were runner up in the ACC Indoor Championships. What was that experience like? Your first conference championship, and first indoor season? How did it feel to score for your school at a championship meet?

The ACC Indoor Championship weekend is one I will never forget. I went over to the track every day until I had to throw. I was cheering on my teammates and having a great time. Before I threw shot, I wrote down all my goals for the meet and what I wanted to place and throw. Then we started throwing. I was in the 2nd flight. We were warming up and I was hitting my throws pretty well. As we were warming up, I was eyeing the competition to see who was throwing farther than me. After warm-ups the competition started and I threw my 49-and-some-change throw to get me to finals and I was in 2nd place. I was very concerned about the girl in 3rd place beating me out, but I just had to keep my head on straight and focus on the goal. I did not throw any farther in the finals, but once the competition was over I was so excited I was smiling from ear to ear. All my teammates were over by the shot ring cheering me on and congratulating me. It was an awesome experience. I felt on top of the world and it felt great being able to contribute some points to our team score.

You scored at the Outdoor ACC Championships as well.  What was that day of competition and experience like?

Outdoor ACC Championships were not what I had hoped they would be. The first day, I threw hammer and there was some miscommunication between Coach and I, so that screwed with my head a little bit. Then, Coach Bradd had to fly back home because of a family emergency so we were without our coach for the rest of the weekend. As a freshman, it was hard for me to deal with not having a coach for my two main events. My teammates tried to help me out, but it still was not the same as having Coach Bradd there. I did not make it to finals in the discus, but took 6th in shot. Not where I wanted to place, but there is always next year and both Coach and I learned a lot from that weekend.

What was competing at the NCAA East Region meet in both the shot put and the discus like? What did you think of the competition and the meet?

Competing at the NCAA East Regional Conference was amazing! It was like a dream come true. No one really made a big deal about me making it as a freshman because all my teammates knew I was good enough to go, but in my eyes, I realized how lucky I was to get there and be competing against a lot of talented athletes who had been around longer than me. Getting a regional mark was one of my goals and I accomplished it at the first meet of the outdoor season in Miami, Florida. Once I got past the qualifying mark, I just wanted to move up in the regional standings and the national standings. Competing in the discus was a little difficult for me. The field was not exactly what I would call flat and the wind was blowing pretty hard that day. I did pretty well considering the conditions and my coach said I had good form and was pleased that I did not give up; I took 12th place.

In the shot, it was a completely different story. I threw in the 2nd flight and there were three total. I did not think I threw well enough to make it to the finals because I knew every girl in the 3rd flight was capable of throwing over 50 feet. So after I was done throwing, I left the field because I was pretty upset with my performance and went to call my mom. After I was done talking to my mom I strolled back over to watch the end of the 3rd flight and Coach told me I made finals! So I had to wipe the disappointment from my face, get my shoes back on and get ready to throw big. Once I got myself all together and started warming up, I felt pretty good.  I was the first thrower to throw and mentally focused on keeping my head straight and throwing like I know how to win. I had a good first throw and scratched my second throw. Right before my third throw, Coach Bradd came up to me and told me I needed to throw at least 50 feet and some change to take 5th place in order to automatically get to Nationals. He said just go fast, stay back, and hit the finish as hard as you can. So I did exactly what he said and threw a 50-01.25 and took 7th with that throw!  This was also my best throw of the year and another new school record. It was an awesome feeling to throw that far, but a disappointment I could not go to Nationals with it. This experience really taught me not to get down and that at these big meets, anything can happen so always keep my head up high and know I did my best.

What was the biggest shock about your freshman year?

The biggest shock of my freshman year was how well I did. I did not think I was going to have such a great year. I thought that it was going to just be a learning year and that I would be starting fresh with changes in technique and lifting, but I caught on pretty quick and used everything to my best ability - from my coach, my teammates and my own self-discipline and drive.

What was the biggest disappointment?

My biggest disappointment was not making it to Nationals. One of my goals was to be an NCAA qualifier and get to Nationals as a freshman, but I guess since I have three more years, I am going to make them count.

What was the best part of this year?

The best part was being able to travel around the country and see new places with my 5 best friends!

What are you most looking forward to next year?

I am looking forward to fewer nerves next year and how much better I am going to be. Now that I understand how everything works, I cannot wait to see how much more I improve and how far I can throw next year in all the big meets.

What is your favorite college meet?

My favorite college meet would have to be the ACC Indoor Championships. It was just a great, energetic atmosphere and I loved every minute of it…even though we were indoors! 

What do you miss most about high school?

I miss playing three sports year-round. I like being in shape and playing all different kinds of sports. I really miss basketball and volleyball. 

What are your summer plans?

My summer plans are to continue training and working out in order to be ready for Jr. Nationals and hopefully for Jr. Worlds! I am also going to be working as a waitress to save some money for school next year.

Do you have any words of wisdom for high schoolers?

The words of wisdom I would share with those in high school would be to set goals and always be yourself and stay true to yourself throughout high school and throughout life. No matter what people say or the drama that is around you, stay positive and love yourself for who you are don't let anyone tell you differently.

After college I see myself...

...throwing at the 2012 Olympics in London and then moving on to a career in which I own or work at a health club as a business manager and personal trainer. 


High School:

Shot put: 49-2; Discus: 163-02'

Notable High School Achievements: Three-time Illinois State Champion Thrower, holds over 50 meet, school, and field records in shot and disc throughout conference, county and state competitions.


Shot put: 50.1.25; Discus: 160-11

Notable college freshman achievements: All-ACC Indoors - Shot put; school record indoor and outdoor shot put; multiple time Georgia Tech student athlete of the week; ACC performer of the week.

Photos: headshot - ramblinwreck.cstv.com; Georgia Tech photos - Jerry F. Pillarelli Photography submitted by Bailey