Chiles High School's Ana Wallace, Florida's top uncommitted female distance runner, has decided to commit to the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Talent literally runs in the Wallace family as her sister and former Chiles star, Alex Wallace, runs for Mississippi State. Now, Ana will be joining her sister in the SEC.
Wallace opted to be patient. Instead of committing in cross country season like many of the other top distance recruits, she let time work in her favor.
"During cross country I was leaving the door open," she said. "Every time I had a good performance I felt like I got a bit more attention."
Prior to her senior year, Wallace had already accumulated five individual state medals in track and cross country, and as a sophomore had been an integral part of the 2015 Chiles state championship cross country team. Fast forwarding to her 2017 cross country season, Wallace asserted herself as one of the top distance runners in the country.
She had many remarkable races, with a sixth place finish at Foot Locker Nationals in December in San Diego headlining her senior campaign. In Tallahassee, she also won her first individual state championship and led Tallahassee Chiles back to a state title, rebounding from their runner-up team finish in 2016.
After being recruited by a multitude of schools, Wallace took official visits to Georgetown, UNC Chapel Hill, FSU and Vanderbilt. She had narrowed her choices down to FSU and Vanderbilt before making her final decision.
She has achieved great success competing for Chiles' coach Mike Phillips.
"He believes in me and makes me believe in myself," Wallace said. "He is always trying to get me to see the positive side of everything because he knows that I sometimes get pretty hard on myself."
Coach Phillips is quick to echo his admiration for Ana's extraordinary year.
"Going to Foot Locker with... Ana - 6th in the country. Amazing," he said. "Her result was the third best finish ever by a Florida girl and earned her All-American recognition."
If Wallace had chosen to attend FSU she would have had the opportunity to be coached by another Phillips, Mike's wife, and FSU coach Kelly Phillips. Wallace says of having been recruited by Kelly Phillips that, "She has just been so great, kind, and encouraging to me all the time, so it was hard to let that go."
Ultimately, Wallace's decision to attend Vanderbilt hinged on her desire to experience a new environment. "I was looking to try something new and get out of my comfort zone a bit, since I have lived in Tallahassee for my whole life."
Though she's known as a gifted athlete, Wallace emphasizes that academics are a high priority. She has expressed interest in molecular biology and intends to study Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt.
Despite her success, Wallace remains levelheaded and humble, often downplaying her own undeniable achievements. Speaking of the success of her senior cross country season, for which she was recently awarded the Florida Gatorade Player of the Year Award, she said, "A lot of it was actually very surprising. I went in to the season with more moderate goals."
When she is not leading the pack or the class, Wallace devotes her time volunteering. Rounding out her impressive resumé, she helps with a Tallahassee track club that hosts road races, a summer track meet series that hosts events for young athletes, and environmental clean-up projects.
- 800m - 2:18.80
- 1600m - 4:57.11
- 3000m (xc) - 13:18.67
- 3200m (xc) - 12:02.13
- 3200m - 10:54.14
- 2 Mile (xc) - 12:59.81
- 5K (xc) - 17:26.50