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Sports >  High school sports

Youth Sports Awards: Rogers three-sport athlete Ellabelle Taylor proves good things come in small packages

June 13, 2022 Updated Mon., June 13, 2022 at 6:53 p.m.

Keenan gray/The Spokesman-Review
Keenan gray/The Spokesman-Review

Underestimate Ellabelle Taylor at your peril.

She may be small at 5-foot-31/2 inches – and exceptionally shy and quiet – but underneath her reserved and demure personality lies the determination, work ethic and willingness to be a champion.

Good things do come in small packages.

Taylor, a junior at Rogers High School who qualified for state in three individual sports, is The Spokesman-Review 2022 Big School Girls Athlete of the Year.

She placed second at state in the 100-meter dash and fifth in the 200, finished sixth in state in the 110-pound weight class in wrestling and qualified and participated at the state cross country championships.

In her two years on the track team, Taylor has additionally competed for Rogers in the 400, 1,200, 1,600 and relays.

“She’ll do anything we ask her to,” Rogers sprint coach Khalil Winfrey said.

“If there was a statue that we could build of any Rogers athlete, humbly speaking besides myself, it’d be Ellabelle Taylor. 100 percent.”

Taylor also qualified for and will compete at the Nike Outdoor Nationals in the sprints June 17-19 at the University of Oregon as part of the “Hillyard Track Club,” comprised of her and Rogers track teammate Anthony Dearfield.

She’s ready to take her show on the road to Nationals.

“I think being able to run against girls that are really fast and see how that is will be exciting,” Taylor said during a break in training Thursday.

“I like going fast.”

Taylor thinks it’s “cool” that Rogers is sending two sprinters to Nationals, but Winfrey – a track and football star at Rogers and a sprinter for the University of Washington – knows it’s more than that.

“It is – I can’t even put it in words,” he said. “I was a student here and I was an athlete myself and so to come back and be a coach and see the program growing, it’s just … it’s amazing.

“Two athletes from Rogers, from Hillyard, you know, not the best place to grow up in, it just makes it 10 times more special.”

Taylor is still honing her skills. She didn’t start with competitive sports until middle school and doesn’t participate in club sports. All of her instruction has come through public school coaching.

“The thing about Ellabelle, honestly, I’ve never met someone like her,” Winfrey said. “She’s just … she’s very quiet, which makes it easy to coach. She listens. She’s respectful. There’s never a time where she’s going to give an attitude.”

Winfrey said though Taylor is shy, she’s also intense and he knows she’s listening and taking in his instruction.

“I see her kind of piecing some things together that I tell her, ‘Hey, work on this, work on that,’ and she shakes her head ‘Yes.’ And I see her visualize and go do those things, which is great.”

Winfrey said Taylor is more open with her brother and friends, and has tried coaxing more reaction from her at practice.

“We try and get her out of that shell, but it’s Ellabelle. Whatever she feels comfortable with, we let her do her thing.”

Taylor doesn’t think there’s any secret to her success.

“I guess I train all year and I don’t ever like to stop pushing myself,” she said. “I try to work hard every day.”

“If there could be 100 Ellabelles, the program would be amazing,” Winfrey said. “Whether it’s wrestling, track – I think she should be out here on the football field as well. I think that’s what makes her special.”

Taylor is something of an athletic unicorn. Wrestlers sometimes run cross country to train, and cross country runners usually run distances on the track. But it’s not that often a wrestler or a cross country runner is a national-quality sprinter.

“Usually, when you get kids (in high school), they kind of already know what they want to do,” Rogers track coach Brent Palmer told the S-R in April. “But I don’t see much overlap between the 100 and the mile ever. It’s just not something you see the athletes do.”

“I mean, that’s how special she is,” Winfrey said. “She can do it all. She can run two miles if we need her to. We can do a mile, 100 meter. All that stuff. She’s all around the board just an amazing athlete.

“If you tell her to go swim a mile, I’m sure she’ll do that.”

Taylor took up wrestling in middle school, following in her big brother’s footsteps with the support of her parents.

“I didn’t think I would do as good in wrestling,” she said, “but I did a little bit better than I thought I would.

“I like how (wrestling) is really hard. It’s just you and another person and you can really see which one can make it through.”

Taylor said there’s a big difference between wrestling against a girl or a boy – and uses that against opponents.

“Boys are a lot stronger,” she said. “And you have to use more muscle when you’re wrestling them. With girls, they’re more flexible. So if you have more muscle, you can like use that against (girls). And then you could use your flexibility against the boys.”

Taylor can’t wait to get back to state in wrestling.

“It was awesome,” she said. “It was so cool to be in the (Tacoma) Dome and see so many people and there’s a lot of different wrestlers and different techniques.”

When she’s not wrestling during a tournament, Taylor likes to evaluate others and likes watching the lighter weights wrestle.

“They move faster.”

When she isn’t wrestling or running, she enjoys her classes, especially in engineering.

“I like to see how things work,” she said.

And she enjoys hanging out with her chickens.

Yep.

“They’re really cool, and they’re pretty, and they like hanging out with me,” she said.

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