2023 Students of Distinction

Abigail Oliver excels in the pool and with her horn

Posted on May 12th, 2023 By:

Gig Harbor Now is posting profiles of each of the Students of Distinction being honored by the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation. The students will be honored during a banquet from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at Ocean5, 5268 Point Fosdick Dr.

Student: Abigail Oliver

School: Peninsula High

Category: Music, Art & Drama

Abigail Oliver started playing music at a young age, beginning with the piano. But when she saw a French horn, she knew immediately that she wanted to play it.

Her parents found an inexpensive trumpet at a garage sale and told her the trumpet was “close enough” to French horn. So all through junior high she played trumpet.

Abigail Oliver

Her band teacher later asked several trumpet players to switch to French horn, and Abigail jumped at the opportunity. She stayed with trumpet through junior high, playing with the jazz band, while learning French horn in every spare moment.

She switched to French horn full time when she got to Peninsula High School. She is now first-chair French horn in the concert band and wind symphony and second chair in the symphonic band. She plays in the school’s brass quintet that took first place in state and in the solo ensemble that scored second place. This spring she played Strauss’ “Horn Konzert” in the state solo competition.

Water polo and swimming

But music is just one of her loves. Abigail is also a member of the PHS swim and water polo teams and has received the Coach’s Award in both sports. She is captain of the water polo team and qualified for the Junior Olympics through Puget Sound Water Polo.

Her success in music and sports are her most important achievements, she said, but it’s hard to choose her favorite. “I love band so much and I also love water polo. I love playing with the bands and I love working with the team — we placed sixth in state and I broke the school record for goals. So going to state in water polo and going to state in French horn —those are both my favorite things.”

Dealing with COVID restrictions was her biggest challenge. “There was no swimming or athletics, and having to learn my music pieces by myself and not being able to play together in band was so hard,” she said. But she persevered and has gone on to win respect and admiration from her classmates, coaches and teachers.

Teachers and family

Megan Hilborn, PHS director of bands, wrote that Abigail is “a passionate individual who strives to always do her best, is a kind leader to those around her, is loyal to her commitments and perseveres through difficult circumstances with grace and patience.”

Water polo coach Troy Wiltbank says that Abigail “is going to be of great value to whatever she puts her heart into and provide outstanding results. She is a determined hard worker and takes a lot of pride in her performance and provides support and mentoring for her teammates.”

Abigail is quick to credit her family for her success. This fall, she’ll attend Brigham Young University to study civil engineering. She wants to “build safe places for businesses and families.”

Her advice to students headed into high school: “Every day is a new day; every hour is a new hour. Even if it seems like something is hard, stick with it and you can be a success.”

Abigail Oliver

Parents: George and Alisha Oliver

Achievements/Activities: Scholar Athlete – swim, water polo; first chair French horn – concert band, wind symphony; PLU honor band; 1st Place in State – brass quintet; 2nd place in State – solo ensemble; Coach’s award – swim, water polo; Most Valuable Swimmer; water polo captain; Division 2 first team All Tournament – water polo; first team All Division water polo; Junior Olympics – Puget Sound water polo; church youth group president; lifeguard certification

Favorite teacher: Megan Hilborn. “She really loves the subject she teaches. She works very hard to put on a happy face and teach us more skills in music.”

Best thing about PHS: “..the coaches teaching us the importance of keeping our grades up while doing sports. They were the most positive influence on me.”