So the following fall, she turned to swimming for the first time.
“Swimming is not very well advertised at Fort,” she said. “Not a lot of people knew about it. But I talked to a girl on the team and asked her if it was fun. She said it was and the coach was great, so I decided to turn out. I remember my first practice thinking ‘Oh my gosh. This is really hard.’ But it got me in great shape and I became really close with the girls on the team.”
Her experience with tennis in the spring followed a similar path.
“Tennis was hard my freshman year because I had never played it before and I wasn’t very good,” Ellen said. “But sophomore year, we got a new coach (Corey Farr) and he made us work, pushed us to learn and get better.”
In the winter, Ellen competed in bowling, a sport in which she excelled and grew up playing in her family.
She was a member of the varsity team all four years at Fort and qualified for state in 2018 and 2019.
Last year, Ellen, with the help of her coach, Julie Pagel, began researching colleges where she might be able to earn a scholarship for bowling.
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.”