FISHERSVILLE – It’s hard to believe that a 17-year-old has accomplished so much in such a short period of time.
But Austin Wood is that person.
Multitalented in many fields, including music, sports and academics, the Wilson Memorial High School senior has already accomplished what many take a lifetime to achieve.
Take music, for example. Where most people find it challenging to play one instrument, Wood is talented in just about anything he touches, from the piano and organ to the saxophone, flute, trumpet and xylophone.
And he’s good at it, so good he plays the organ in churches, is a member of the Stonewall Brigade Band, the all-Valley honor band, multiple jazz bands, a flute choir and his own school’s band.
In cross country, he recently won the Conference 36 individual title, finished third in the 2A East Regional, and Saturday he will run in the state Group 2A meet at Great Meadow.
Academically, he takes a very rigorous course of study that has him near the top of his senior class.
For all his accomplishments, Wilson has selected him as its fall nominee for the City/County Student-Athlete of the Year award, sponsored by Elliott Chevrolet and the News Leader.
Wood always has had a knack for music. He started playing the piano in the second grade, and still takes lessons. He can also play the organ for church services.
In the sixth grade, he took up the saxophone.
“But I got bored with it,” he said. “I asked what was the hardest instrument to play, and the band director said it was the flute. So I played the flute until my eighth grade year. But I didn’t want to play it in the marching band.”
So as a freshman Wood remembered that his brother, who is seven years older than he, played the trumpet.
“We still had it in the attic, so I went to the trumpet,” he recalled.
Currently, the trumpet is his main instrument, although he took up the piccolo as a sophomore.
With the instruments have come may responsibilities. The last two years, he has been the trumpet section leader and brass captain in the Wilson band. And since the sixth grade, has played in the Stonewall Brigade Band, either on the flute or trumpet.
He has also performed in multiple jazz bands. “And I’ve been a sub organist or played the flute or trumpet in churches from all over.”
Wood is even in a flue choir, the Stonewall Flutes of the Shenandoah.
“There I play the base flute,” he said. “It’s wider, much longer, and an octave lower than the regular flute.”
As far as his favorite music, it’s the marches, particularly those of the legendary John Philip Sousa
“Music is definitely important to me, and it is what defined me until I found running,” he recalled.
And that came when he was in the ninth grade.
“I went on a hiking field trip in earth science, and what it entailed was hiking up a mountain.
“I remembered coming back down. It was a steep hill and my friend and I started to run. I had thought about running before. At the bottom of the hill we were not out of breath. I said we would be good at running, so, the next summer we decided to join the cross country team, and found it was much harder than running down a hill.
“I didn’t know that just one day would be so pivotal in my high school career.”
By the time Wood graduates, he will have accumulated eight letters basically in running — three in cross country, two in indoor track and three in outdoor track.
Of the three, cross country is his favorite.
“You get much more of a sense of unity,” he said. “Everybody is in it together.”
As a first-year runner in cross country, Wood was near the middle of the pack, running the 5k race around 19:40. He has steadily improved to become Wilson’s top runner, posting his best time of 16:57 in the Group 2A East Regional last week at Panorama Farms.
A 3-time all conference and once all-regional runner, he will try to better that time Saturday at the Group 2A state meet at Great Meadow. Last year at the state, he was 26th in 17:42.
“He’s just a great kid,” Wilson cross country coach Steve Geiman said. “He is an excellent leader and a great role model, and much respected by the rest of the team. He makes my job easy.”
Wood took up indoor track in his sophomore year. There, he usually runs the distances, either the mile or two-mile.
“I’ve treated indoor track as maintenance for cross country and outdoor track,” he said.
In outdoor track, the 800 and 1600 meter runs are his main events and he has advanced to state as part of the 4×800 relay team both in his sophomore and junior years.
Academically, Wood holds a 4.3205 grade point average and is currently 10th in a senior class of 177.
“We have a very competitive class academically,” he said. “And I don’t shy away from a challenge.”
And that is easily seen in his senior course load which includes AP calculus, dual enrollment molecular biology and AP environmental science at the Governor’s School, plus AP government and AP psychology back at Wilson.
Of all his subjects, he prefers the sciences, particularly biology.
As far as extracurricular activities, music is at the forefront. He is a member of the National Honor Society and the Tri-M Music Honor Society.
As a sophomore, he was a member of the chess club, and during his first two years in high school, the Latin club.
Outside school, he has worked at his mom’s physical therapy clinic as a receptionist.
“That taught me a lot about people skills,” he said.
For Wood, college is on the horizon. He plans on running cross country at the next level, as well as majoring in the field in biology.
Shenandoah University is recruiting him for running while he is also interested in Christopher Newport University and it neuroscience program.
Down the road, he may enter the medical field.
But next on the agenda is the state meet at Great Meadow, his last high school cross country run.
Coming off his 16:57 at Panorama Farms, he’s aiming for the Wilson mark of 16:48 set by his former mentor, Stephen Good. “I really looked up to him,” Wood said. “I want to come as close to it as I can.
“He was my section leader (in band) and really influenced me. He left quite a legacy here, and one I’d like to leave also for others to follow.”
Each public high school from Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro selects fall, winter and spring nominees, then selects one finalist. One finalist will also be chosen from nominees made by area private schools.
Up next: Erin Henderson, Fort Defiance