Class of 2021: Stillwater’s Wagner stars on, off soccer field

Devon Wagner is shown at Stillwater High School earlier this month.
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Devon Wagner is shown at Stillwater High School earlier this month.

STILLWATER — On the soccer field, she was a key competitor as the Stillwater High School varsity girls’ soccer team produced one of the greatest multi-year runs in Section II athletics history.

Off the field, the impact Devon Wagner made was even more significant.

“She’s somebody that always does the right thing,” Stillwater girls’ soccer head coach Christine Ihnatolya said, “even when nobody is looking.”

Set to study finance at the University of Tampa, Wagner was a two-time captain of Stillwater’s girls’ soccer team, which won Class C state championships in both 2018 and 2019. Stillwater also made it to the state championship game in 2017 and, after that game’s defeat, put together an unbeaten streak that lasted 52 games before it was ended earlier this year during the “Fall II” season created to house competitions for school sports teams unable to compete last fall because of concerns related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Wagner provided steady leadership and solid play during her five seasons playing varsity soccer. Away from the field, Wagner was involved in community service, active in her church, participated in leadership programs — and, in a matter of weeks, led a fundraising effort that secured thousands of dollars for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which netted Wagner the Upstate New York Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Student of the Year award in 2019.

Volunteering and trying to help others will be areas of focus for the 18-year-old Wagner during her college years, too.

“It just makes me feel whole,” Wagner said.

Wagner’s father Brad had participated in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s philanthropic competition for adults in 2010. Nine years later, after attending an event where Wagner heard about the competition for teenagers, Wagner signed up. A number of her family members in recent years had been diagnosed with cancer, and her uncle Tim Ferrante had been diagnosed earlier that year.

“So I’d wanted to do something,” Wagner said, “but I didn’t know what to do because I was 16 years old — and, what the heck can I do?”

The student-of-the-year event, she quickly decided, was it.

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“When I heard about it, I was like: ‘This is exactly what I need to do,’” Wagner said. “I went home and I signed up without my parents even knowing. . . . I just wanted to help.”

Through a series of fundraising events, a letter-writing campaign and walking door-to-door seeking donations, Wagner’s “Team Believe” raised approximately $64,000. As part of the recognition for raising that much money, Wagner was able to dedicate a $50,000 research grant in honor of her uncle — who, the week Wagner found out that would be possible, learned he was in remission from the disease.

The oldest of Brad Wagner and Kiki Wagner’s three children, Devon Wagner said she treasured her experiences in high school with community service. She won’t play soccer in college, but has plenty of unforgettable memories from playing for Stillwater, too. There are all the wins, sure, but also the camaraderie from developing into a championship-level team.

“Just seeing our team believe in ourselves and pick each other up — the sisterhood that we all experienced,” Wagner said of what she’ll remember most from her high school soccer career. “It really created a family I’ll never forget.”

Wagner, who graduates as part of a class of 78 from Stillwater, played a key role in fostering such an environment. Ihnatolya said she appreciated how Wagner always looked out for her teammates on and off the field.

“She’d always check on me, too,” Ihnatolya said. “She really tried to make everyone around her feel special.”

That quality made her an ideal captain.

“A captain is somebody that you look up to, both on the field and off the field,” Ihnatolya said. “It’s someone who is a leader on and off the field, and those are qualities that [Wagner] encompasses in the community, the town, the school and on the athletic field.” 

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Categories: Class of 2021, High School Sports, News, Saratoga County, Sports

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