Athlete specialization isn’t Ellie Walker’s game.
One, it’s not for her; it never has in an active childhood that transitioned into being a four-year letterwinner in two sports at Columbia River High School. She also played basketball as a freshman.
And two, even if she did focus on one sport, “I would get bored,” the 18-year-old said.
But perhaps the greatest strength of being a championship-caliber multi-sport athlete, such as Walker was during the 2016-17 school year, is how it helps an athlete mentally.
That’s what Walker, The Columbian’s All-Region multi-sport girls athlete of the year, credits transitioning from the team-oriented of soccer to the individualism of track and field.
“It helps to switch environments,” she said. “I think track, especially, is really important. The mental toughness aspect is only in your head; no one else can do it for you. Translate that to soccer, where it’s a team sport, I know I have to do my part. That helps a lot.”
Walker hopes that transitions well into her new team: the University of Portland’s women’s soccer team, where she’ll play defender starting this fall for the Pilots. She already has started her training workouts, and begins summer classes on campus June 26.
Walker was an intricate piece on the Chieftains’ 2A state title-winning soccer team as a forward, scoring 26 goals to help River win its third state title since 2008. Even seven months later, reminiscing on the state title brings a smile to her face.
“I still feel it,” she said. “I’m really proud to be a part of that at River. There’s a lot of tradition in the school and in the program.”
That didn’t mean she didn’t endure travails along the way.
When she tore her meniscus in soccer in her junior year, it proved to be a major hurdle to clear. Not did it only test her physically, but how to bounce back mentally.
She could have quit track to focus all her efforts on soccer — her future college sport — but that’s not Walker. She pushed forward in a sport that tested her own accountability and self-motivation.
“Having that team aspect,” she said, “you feel people are relying on you; it makes you work harder. In track, being by yourself, it can be hard to stay focused and push yourself. You know there’s one race, one opportunity.”
Walker made her races count this spring … and almost was a dual-sport state champion.
She lowered her personal-record time three times in the 100 hurdles; her time of 14.99 at districts set a new meet record and was her first time running sub-15 seconds. Her prelims time a week later at state shattered that mark, and despite running what she called a good final, Ephrata’s McCall DeChenne won in 14.96 seconds. Walker was second in 15.07 to earn her highest state finish of her career.
It wasn’t the state title she was aiming for, but that’s OK, she said.
“I PR’d as the season went on,” Walker added. “That’s more than I can ask for.”
Best of the rest
Beyonce Bea, Washougal
Sophomore was the 2A GSHL MVP in basketball; in tennis, she was part of sub-district championship doubles team.
Alyssa Chapin, Hockinson
Junior was All-Region in track and field, placing at state in both hurdles; she was also a second-team all-league pick in soccer.
Alexa Dietz, Camas
Senior was All-Region in gymnastics after placing third in floor exercise; first-team all-4A GSHL in track in long, triple jumps.
MacKenzie Ellertson, King’s Way Christian
Sophomore was All-Region in soccer as Trico League MVP; first team all-Trico League in basketball; state qualifier in track.
Sarah Ellis, Columbia River
Junior was All-Region gymnast of year after winning state title on balance beam; district pole vault champ in track.
Abby England, La Center
Senior was All-Region in softball as Trico League MVP; she was also the league’s defensive MVP in volleyball.
Kayla Fredricks, Woodland
Senior was first-team all-2A GSHL in volleyball; second-team in basketball; state participant in relay in track and field.
Emma Jenkins, Camas
Junior was All-Region in cross country as 4A GSHL MVP; also All-Region in track after winning district titles in 1,600 and 3,200.
Danyelle Joli, Battle Ground
Senior was a first-team all-4A GSHL selection in bowling for district champions and as an infielder in softball.
Alyssa Tomasini, Camas
Senior was All-Region in soccer, helping Camas to state; also All-Region in softball as team’s top hitter.