Gabrielle Wilkinson Commits To The University of Florida

Gabrielle Wilkinson is headed south next year.

The Friends' Central middle distance star told PennTrackXC that she has committed to the University of Florida. Wilkinson chose the Gators over Clemson, Michigan, California, and Virginia.

"I just feel like Florida was the best fit for me," Wilkinson said. "They have a successful program and a great coaching staff. At Florida, I feel like I can achieve the highest levels of track and field."

Wilkinson added that she plans to enroll in the pre-med program at UF.

Wilkinson is the nation's No. 2 returner in the 800 meters. She ran 2:06.03 at the USATF Junior National Championships in Sacramento last summer, where she placed third. She was a Pennsylvania indoor state champion as a freshman. As a sophomore, she placed third at New Balance Nationals Indoor, running her indoor personal best of 2:06.87. She went on to run a meet record of 4:25.04 at the AAU Junior Olympic Games in 2016.

Wilkinson battled an injury last season, which held her out of the indoor season. Despite that, she managed to come back and PR at junior nationals.

"I have a lot of room to improve," she said. "I don't really know my full potential.

"I really just want to be healthy -- that's the main goal," she added, noting that she hasn't had a full season where she hasn't been injured.

Wilkinson said she's been upping her mileage and doing more interval work leading into the upcoming indoor season.

Above: Wilkinson wins the 800 meters at the PTFCA Indoor State Championships in 2015

Florida has a mid-distance program on the rise. The Gators brought on former 10K American record holder Chris Solinsky this year as the distance coach to add to an already-strong program head coach Mike Holloway has built. Wilkinson said she got the opportunity to meet former University of Florida standout and professional distance runner Cory McGee while on campus.

"They achieved a lot in the conference and in the NCAA, so me being a part of a team that's always drive for success is what attracted me," Wilkinson said. "They are focused on building a stronger distance program and I am excited to be a part of that."

The warm Gainesville weather doesn't hurt, either.

"I always loved the warm climate and the palm trees," she said. "I dreamed of [that setting] when I was a little girl."

Wilkinson is looking forward to what she expects will be a busy indoor season. She plans on opening up at the VA Showcase in Lynchburg, Virginia. She also hopes to race in the Millrose Games and the Boston Grand Prix this winter.

Ultimately, Wilkinson has dreams of becoming an NCAA champion, and eventually an Olympian. She's still got an indoor and outdoor track season at Friends' Central to go, but after that, the journey will continue at the University of Florida.