If you didn’t know by now, James Hubert Blake High School houses our very own female Flash, senior Ella Zeigler. Earlier this month, Zeigler made Blake history at the Cross Country (XC) North Regionals, by becoming the Girls 4A North Regional Champion, with a remarkable time of 18 minutes and 28 seconds during her respective race, breaking a school record.
“It was so surreal in a way,” Zeigler reminisces. “I knew that I had it in me … I worked really hard to get a good time and to run the best I can.” Attending XC’s thorough practices and completing rigorous training outside of school took a lot of determination and diligence, which is why her recent triumphs felt so rewarding. “I’ve been working hard the whole season and it wasn’t really paying off since we’ve been running on really hard courses,” Zeigler admits. “It finally showed, it was the best thing ever, and I was really happy.” Zeigler continues to shoot for the stars, hoping to place high at the upcoming XC states and break other Blake records.
With a talent as tremendous as hers, it would not be far-fetched to believe that Zeigler had always run for Blake’s XC team. However, it may surprise some to reveal that Zeigler did not join XC until her junior year at Blake, and was originally a member of our varsity cheer team. But even though she started XC in her junior year, running has always been a major element in Zeigler’s life. “I’ve always ran since I was little,” Zeigler recalls fondly. “Like, I would race my cousins and my brothers and things like that.”
Today, her love for running isn’t just confined to XC. Zeigler has also been a key player on Blake’s Track and Field team since her freshman year and has achieved a considerable amount during her four years there, too. During her Junior year, Zeigler was Sectional Champion of the 3200-meter race and the Regional Champion of 1600 meter race, as well as placing 3rd and 4th in those respective races during States.
Outside of Blake, Zeigler runs for a club team called Project Creek, where she joined during her Junior year. Project Creek gave her the opportunity to run, despite the COVID-19 pandemic taking away her Junior year season at Blake. Project Creek played a major role in helping Zeigler garner traction in the running community, consequently catching the eyes of colleges and recruiters. “When I joined my club team … that’s when I started climbing the rankings in Maryland, that’s when I started dropping those times, getting stronger, getting faster,” Zeigler says. “The best decision I ever made was joining that club team.”
Alongside the many tangible achievements running has gifted Zeigler, she has also gained several life lessons that she will be taking with her in the long run (no pun intended). “I’ve learned to be a lot more humble because I’ve been humbled in races a lot,” Zeigler jokes. “That’s something I’ll take into other areas of life, like being happy for other people’s accomplishments, but still not putting myself down, even if they’re different.”
Although XC season is soon coming to an end, Zeigler doesn’t plan on hitting the brakes on her running career anytime soon. Aside from planning to participate in next spring’s Track and Field season, she disclosed to the Beat that she’s planning to run for a D1 school (Due to NAACP regulations, she is not allowed to disclose where exactly until a later time). “I decided that after doing spring track and field, this [running] is something that I wanted to do and pursue in high school, and college,” Zeigler recalls. She also aspires to become a professional athlete, which is a feat that is well within her reach. However, if going professional does not happen, Zeigler states that “I’ll definitely still be running … after college and with other people,” asserting her unconditional love for the sport.
Aside from being a top-tier athlete, Zeigler is also a dedicated agent of learning. She skillfully balances athletics, academics, extracurriculars, such as being Class of 2022’s Treasurer, and her social life. “It’s definitely not easy, I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” Zeigler discloses. Her secret to success is dividing up your time smartly and making the effort to complete your schoolwork before your sport. Her motto is “I’m a student-athlete, student comes first.” She also advises to take it easy on your break days, get enough sleep and nutrition, and most importantly, remember to have fun, in order to prevent athletic burnout.
Outside of running and school, Zeigler likes to unwind by taking a well-deserved snooze. “I love sleeping, which is so bad,” Zeigler says with a laugh, “but, like, I love sleeping.” Maybe we can’t relate to Zeigler’s unparalleled running ability, but I’m sure we all share her affinity for sleep. Aside from catching up on rest, Zeigler also likes to paint and create bracelets for her loved ones. An athlete and an artist, get you a girl that can do both!
All in all, Zeigler is an inspiration to both athletes and ordinary students. To anyone who looks up to her, Zeigler gives this piece of advice: “Just go for it. You never know if you don’t try it.” Lots of people have these big dreams, she says, but often hold themselves back due to their own fear and apprehension. However, “if you work hard, you’re gonna make progress,” Zeigler affirms. She also reminds us that it is the journey that’s important, not the end product. “I think finding enjoyment, putting in the work, seeing progress, is something that is really overlooked.” We can all take a page out of Ella’s book, and run as fast as we can to our dreams, too.