• O’Neal Wanliss, rising senior
  • Holy Innocents Episcopal School
O’Neal Wanliss

Holy Innocents rising senior O’Neal Wanliss is always on the move — and he moves fast.

It’s a good thing he does, of course, or he wouldn’t be able to maintain his academic workload, his recycling program at school and his membership in Global Citizenship, Peer Counseling, the Student Ambassador program, Student Diversity Leadership Council and Peoples Club.

And if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be able to call himself the two-year 400 meter state champion, the 400 meter champion of the USA Track & Field Youth Championship and, most recently, the 400 meter champion of the Region 3 Junior Olympics qualifiers, sending him on his way to Sacramento, Calif., to compete in the Junior Olympics.

His fastest time is 47.33 seconds — making him the fastest 400 meter runner in the state and the third-fastest in the nation in his age group.

And to think that Wanliss has only been running track seriously for a little over a year.

“I was balancing two sports up until this year — soccer and track,” the soft-spoken teen said. “They both have the same season at school, so I never made it for an entire week of practice. But this year I decided I needed to give track all my attention since my coaches thought I could do better.”

Evidently, Wanliss has a gift for athletics, which he considers to be his stress relief. But this All-American runner is also an All-American teen — he is heavily involved in his school, cares passionately about the environment and even manages to have a little time left for his friends and family.

He is deeply determined to succeed in all walks of life — even if that means running in the Georgia summer heat at the New Horizons Track Club in Decatur to improve his time, or waking up early on Thursdays during the school year to sort through the recycling at Holy Innocents.

Wanliss, after participating in the Atlanta Regional Commission for Environmentaland Land Use organization a few years ago, realized how much of an impact he — and more broadly, Holy Innocents — had on the environment. His interest in the green initiative led him to found the Green Team at Holy Innocents and start a school-wide recycling program.

“Now all the upper school, preschool and fine arts school recycle,” Wanliss said. “I used to go to every room and pick up the recycling myself and sort it, but now a homeroom helps me every week and we have a dumpster to sort through it all.”

His schedule is hectic and his days are long, but as long at his muscular legs keep moving, he has no intention of slowing down any time soon.

What’s Next:

Coming into his senior year, Wanliss hopes to keep training for track full-time to lower his time and once again become the state track champion. He intends to keep up his grades, expand his recycling program, and apply to colleges.

Currently first on his list is Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., not for its stellar athletics (though he does intend to keep running track and perhaps even pick up soccer again), but for its reputation of academic excellence and its location.

“D.C. is the heart of diplomacy,” said Wanliss. “I’d love to be right there in the mix of that.”

–Amanda Wolkin