She narrowed that list of schools down to the ones that offered a degree in elementary education, eventually leading her to sign with the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky.
“I had three or four schools interested in me, but the University of the Cumberlands was really interested in me,” she said. “The coach got a hold me and emailed me like two times a week. So that got me more interested in going there. I looked up pictures of the school and thought ‘Oh, this looks pretty.’
“And the more I learned about the school, the more I liked it. And I really liked the coach. I really believe it was his interest in me that really made me want to go there.”
Ellen signed with the University of the Cumberlands earlier this month. She waited to finalize her decision in part to keep her options open, but also because the current pandemic prevented her from visiting the campus.
“And the farthest east I’ve ever been is Minnesota,” she said. “So that’s a little scary. But I did get a virtual tour of the campus. My (university) counselor Facetimes me and says ‘OK, I’ll walk you through the campus.’ That was nice.”
Ellen doesn’t know anyone at the Cumberlands, or even Kentucky for that matter. She does have a stepsister who attends East Tennessee State and some close family friends who live in Louisiana.
“But that’s still quite a drive away,” Ellen said. “So I’m a little nervous. People say the freshman year is the hardest. But bowling will make it easier, so I’m super excited about going.”
She added: “It feels a little weird to tell people I’m going across the country for bowling. It’s not the kind of sport people expect you to get a scholarship for. They’ll be like ‘What?’ But it’s something I’ve always dreamed about.”
Ellen was also involved in the Associated Student Body program at Fort, helping to promote school spirit and camaraderie.
Her involved in ASB and being a three-sport athlete is what she’s most proud about her time at Fort.
“For me, it’s all about having pride in your school and trying to represent your school in a great way,” Ellen said. “Fort often gets this bad reputation. So we need more students to represent Fort in a good way because there are so many good things about Fort and maybe a couple of bad things. But every school has negative things about it. We just need to switch our thinking and look at the positives.”
At Fort Vancouver, the Trappers can look at students like McKenna Ellen.
Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at (360) 735-4538, email@example.com or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.