Ellington speeds into high school track’s upper echelon
by Staff Writer
by Cliff Mehrtens
It didn’t take Malia Ellington long to reach elite status as a high-school runner.
Ellington, a freshman at Community School of Davidson, forged her name into the Mecklenburg County record books with stunning performances in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races at the Marvin Ridge Invitational on March 13.
Her time of 5 minutes, 2.17 seconds in the 1,600 was the sixth-best in county history.
Her time of 11:20.26 in the 3,200 was the 14th-best by a Mecklenburg County runner.
“I just love to run,” Ellington said. “I’m really surprised how the whole thing turned out. My strategy was to improve my times.”
Ellington won both races easily. The times were impressive, as well as the competition. The meet included runners from more than 40 schools, including large Class 4A squads. In the 1,600, Ellington beat Erica Amatori (Green Hope’s all-state cross country runner), Weddington’s Mallary Price (Union County champion), Natalie Andrejchak (Concord Robinson), Margot Corcoran (Charlotte Catholic) and Caitlyn Colo (Marvin Ridge).
Ellington’s 3,200 time was 19 seconds faster than second-place Allie Castro of North Lincoln. She also bested Bianca Bishop (Providence), Morgan Garrett (Weddington) and Green Hope’s Emily Boesch and Jessica Rossabi.
On March 29, Ellington climbed higher up the county charts. She clocked 11:01 in the 3,200-meter race in a meet at Charlotte Latin. It was 19 seconds faster than her performance at the Marvin Ridge meet, and improved her to a tie for sixth-best in Mecklenburg history (with Providence High’s Ami Hermann, 1993).
Ellington’s splash into the state’s best is more remarkable compared to where she was eight months ago. Last July, while competing in a triathlon, Ellington’s bike fell on her foot and the chain severed two tendons and nerves in her right foot.
Surgery ensued. Then, five weeks on crutches. Another 4 to 5 weeks in a walking boot.
“At first I didn’t really know what was going to happen,” Ellington said. “I didn’t know how serious it was, or if I was going to be able to run competitively again. But I made up my mind to come back even stronger.”
Ellington – as is her competitive nature – wanted to speed up the process. It forced her coaches to reel in her enthusiasm at times to allow her leg to heal. But sometimes that’s a good problem to have.
Ellington is loaded with natural ability, but coaches cite her work ethic as being a key to her success.
“You could tell her this is going to be one of the hardest workouts of the year,” said Mike Good, Community School of Davidson’s cross country and track coach. “She’ll just say ‘OK,’ and take off.”
“She comes to practice ready to go every day,” Good said. “Malia has a super-positive attitude, and is internally motivated. She has one of the best attitudes of any kid I’ve ever met, so positive and enthusiastic.”
When Ellington was injured, Good wanted her infectious attitude around the school’s other cross country runners last fall. So, he named Ellington a student assistant coach.
“I wanted her leadership abilities for the other runners,” Good said. “I wanted that positive attitude of hers to spread.”
Marc Sweet, a former college runner and coach, has been Ellington’s AAU club coach the past couple of years. He said Ellington’s cross training as a triathlete – mixing in bicycling and swimming – makes her a better runner.
“It’s good to cross-train, and it gives me another type of racing to experience,” Ellington said. “It’s a good experience to try to run fast when you’re tired (in a triathlon). I’m determined to do my best, and leave it all out there.”
Sweet said burnout isn’t likely for Ellington because of her additional training in swimming and cycling.
“She’s come a long way in a short time,” Sweet said. “She’s put in the work and strength training into it. She’s got that urge to just go run. You tell her more mileage and she says ‘Yeah, I want more.’
“This is really her first year as a competitive track and field runner. She’s still learning her own strategy. She just runs. The more distance you give her, the more she runs. And I’ll run faster the more you give me.”
Straight into the record books.