Foreign Transfer Student's Story: Angela Wagner

Before I came to the States, I never thought I would live and train in America. I lived a happy life in South Africa. Most races I would win easily. My training partners were all guys. I was a big fish in a small pond. In order to develop every ounce of the talent I had been given, deep down I knew I needed to be training and racing with girls who were better than me. When I got to BYU I was a small fish in a big pond. It was a humbling experience at first. All the girls around me were incredibly talented and dedicated to their running goals, yet so balanced in every aspect of their lives.

I made instant friends on the team and training with the girls was such fun! I was excited to see my times steadily improve through Coach Shane’s training. With the help of the solid support system of expert coaches, gym trainers, dietitians, psychologists and academic tutors I was able to train and compete with the best girls on the team, maximize the genetic potential I was given, and reach my athletic goals.

The Recruiting Process

I first met Coach Shane in Beijing China, at the World Junior Championships. He saw my name on the Junior 800m world-ranking list. He came over to the hotel and called up to my room on the hotel phone. I don’t know what made him choose to recruit me, but I’m sure glad he did. I was taking a nice long nap (sleeping off a disappointing race in the first round
of the 800m where I had been boxed-in and failed to make the semi-final). Little did I know, answering that phone call would change my life. Going to BYU afforded me the amazing opportunity to train at an elite level with endless resources to enhance my performance. It allowed me to gain an invaluable education at one of the most prestigious universities in the States and build life-long friendships with my training partners. Through the unique availability of funds available for Track and Field at BYU I was lucky enough to travel to many fun and exciting places throughout the United States and Europe, all expenses paid for.

Why I Chose BYU

I chose BYU for the coach, team, academics and location. Coach Shane has coached multiple Olympians; he has more than 30 years of experience training elite level women.
I chose BYU for the team, everyone was focused their track careers but were normal fun-loving girls
I chose BYU because of their stellar academic reputation.
I chose BYU because it is located below the most beautiful mountain range, and it reminded me of home.

What Makes Coach Shane Different

I have been with Coach Shane for 4 years as an athlete and have now worked as his team manager for 2 years. Two things stand out that make him different: One, coach’s unique ability to make his athletes want to do well. Coach Shane’s athletes have an inner desire to run faster than they ever have, to push the limits, and to work as hard as it takes to do just that. And two, his kind caring attitude to every single one of his athletes. He loves all the girls on the team; he gets excited for them, worries about them, and tries his best to help them reach their dreams.

My team mates

They make me smile. Each girl brings her unique personality traits to the team. We have some girls who bring their intensity and work ethic, some their sense of humor, some their crying shoulder or their endless optimism. Then we have the talkers, the dancers, the fun-finders, the workaholics, and the jokesters.

Being teammates in a sport such as distance running forms an unparalleled bond between girls. We always joke that there is not one topic in the world we have not discussed on a run— and I can assure you it is true! When I think of my teammates I have a flood of memories of our yearly Pre-Season Cross Country Altitude Camp at Park City, epic canyon runs, post long-run breakfast parties, Halloween dress-up runs and all the fun we have gotten up to when we travel to meets. (Both with the coach’s knowledge and without!) I think about the support we give each other through illness and injury, through rough races, rough workouts and generally rough days. But I also think about the epic moments when my teammates became National Champions, when they made World Championship teams, when they raced at the Olympic trails, when they smashed their personal bests, when they outkicked their rival, when they raced just as well as coach said they could and the whole team was ecstatic for them! And then I remember the many celebratory chocolate shakes!


For me personally, academics has always been a challenge. I almost cannot believe I am now working on my Masters degree here at BYU. My lecturers have been great! They always delivered real-world knowledge and a high level of professionalism. They love athletes and whilst competing, would go out of their way to help me catch up any work I missed. I came from South Africa where I trained with a personal coach outside of the university. It was very stressful to try and schedule both pursuits; yet, I wanted to make the wise choice and be able to study and run. The first day I got to BYU I walked right into the office of the academic advisor. She put me into all the classes I needed and worked around my training and lifting schedule. For the first time I was able to succeed as student and as a runner. The system is set-up to allow you to do both. My full scholarship allowed me to gain an education I would have otherwise never have been able to afford. Now I have the credentials to get a job that I am not only passionate about but that will make a good living.

My Worst Experience in the States

I would say missing family is one of the hardest parts of going to school far from home. However when you do get to go home, everyone is excited to see you and you can do no wrong! [Angela’s mum and sister also came over to see her. They traveled to, biked, and hiked around some beautiful parts of the USA.]

Best Memories and Highlights

It’s a good thing awesome races never fade from your memory. One overcast day at a meet in California, I was running the West Regional Steeplechase Championships. As I was warming up, Coach Shane came over to me and said, “Angela you can win this, and not only can you win it, you can go sub 10 minutes today.”

I said, “Yes coach,” but in my mind I was thinking…. “He must be joking, me… win? And run under 10 minutes… no way!” I decided right then and there I had nothing to lose by believing him. In my head I already had the race won. As the race progressed I vividly remember thinking, “I feel no pain,” and, “Wow, I still feel no pain!” I felt amazing for the entire 3 k!

With 800m to go, an athlete from University of Southern California made a huge surge to the front. I covered the move like it was no big deal. I felt powerful and fast as I sailed over the final water jump and ran over the line in 9.58. Looking back on it I could focus on what I didn’t get in that race: missing the Olympic B standard to compete for South Africa by 3 seconds. Or what I did get, an incredible coach who believed in me, a race I will never forget, the win, and of course, post-race celebratory milkshakes with my best friend and teammate. Oh…. and some post-race rollercoaster’s at one of the biggest theme parks in the USA!

Advice and Mistakes to Avoid

Deciding to come to BYU was a big decision; there were so many things to consider and many uncertainties. It really helps to talk to someone from your home country who has been in the States and can offer you advice. Everyone has a different experience so remember that a big portion of your experience in the States will be determined by what you make of it.

The scholarship money and education I received at BYU is worth thousands upon thousands of dollars and has opened doors in my life I never imagined were possible. It was an incredible opportunity, and all I had to do in return was to do what I love to do…to run! To run surrounded by a support system of coaches, physiotherapist, sports psychologists, nutritionists, academic advisors and weight lifting coaches.

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