Oak tree planned to be planted in honor of Austin Gambill


There is also a memorial stone on campus for Austin. By the entrance at Larrabee Stadium, track and cross country athletes are encouraged to touch the stone on the way in and out. Photo by: Sophia Denzler

Sophia Denzler

Student Runners for Public Lands raises money to sponsor a tree in memory of VHS student Austin Gambill

Austin Gambill was a VHS student who was on the Cross Country and Track team and passed away on March 13, 2020. On Feb. 11, 2022, VHS’ Student Runners for Public Lands club started fundraising and donating (with a $10,000 goal) to commemorate an oak tree at Harmon Canyon Preserve in Ventura in his name. 

Runners for Public Lands is a non profit organization that consists of runners who work towards equality and a more sustainable Earth. The student version also takes place at VHS and can be joined by anyone who shares these interests, even if they are not in the Cross Country or Track program. Seniors Malia Page and Carmen Ibarra are the Presidents of SRPL and were in charge of putting the fundraiser together. 

Page said, “Mr. Cruz came up with the idea and proposed it to us. Carmen and I were excited about the idea and when we introduced it to the club [SRPL], there was a lot of support for it.” 

Page said, “I think the tree will encapsulate his essence and memory in something so long-living and important to life and our ecosystems. It also garners the support of his team and community behind a cause that promotes nature, environmentalism, and communal good.” 

“I think planting a beautiful tree in a wonderful trail and running area where we train as runners a lot will serve as a beautiful reminder of what Austin was: a positive influence in the student running community,” said Ibarra.

The fundraiser takes place through Ventura Land Trust, with students spreading the link to gain support. Photo by: Sophia Denzler

Not all ways to support the memory of Gambill include donating, Page said, “If they [students] don’t have the means to do so [donate money] they can visit Harmon Canyon and appreciate the nature reserve created by Ventura Land Trust, and encourage others to do so as well.” 

Ibarra said, “Some other ways students honor him is remembering to be a great teammate, student and have good sportsmanship like him. Also touching the commemorative stone at the track every time you enter & leave especially on a recovery run.”

Ibarra said, “The impact he left on me was that life is precious and you have to enjoy every moment of it.”