In this week's Gordy's Athlete of the Week, SportScene13's Jenn Chapman caught up with arguably one of hte best athletes in the state. A name that is recognizable in two sports, Wally Ellenson.
Wally Ellenson/Rice Lake Senior: “When there’s 10,000 people clapping for you. I mean, your adrenalines obviously going and I’m sure that pushed me to jump higher.”
Not just higher but the highest as Rice Lake senior Wally Ellenson won his second state high jump title. At regionals this year he recorded the highest mark in the country at 7 feet 1 inch, just 2 inches shy of an Olympic Trial qualifier. Wally is also known for his jumps on the basketball court, in March he got his first taste of playing on national TV in the high school slam dunk contest.
Wally: “It was like my first eye opener to all the publicity and just continuing that throughout the Big 10 next year will be great also.”
Wally plans to double sport in track and basketball at the University of Minnesota. But the 6’7 athlete’s focus remains his first love, basketball. Something he credits to his parents John and Holly who both played collegiately.
Holly Ellenson/Rice Lake teacher/Coach: “Somehow they caught that spark and love that we have for the game and they’ve just ran with it. It’s fun for us because it was a passion of ours and it’s interesting how they all took a hold to it.”
The word “they” referencing Wally’s counterparts on the court; his two brothers, the 6’5 junior Ellwood and 6’9 freshman Henry. They’ve come a long way from their 1v1v1 games at home to high school stand outs, which they say is due in part to Wally’s leadership.
Henry Ellenson/Rice Lake Freshman: “Wally’s a hard worker and where he’s gotten today, he’s really had to work hard for it, and certainly deserves all he’s got.”
Ellwood Ellenson/Rice Lake Junior: “Not a lot, but we would sometimes, we would just start to goof around in the gym and he would get us focused and serious so we would just get better on our game.”
Their parents have had an even larger role in Wally’s high jump success. Holly is the school’s high jump coach and John volunteers.
Wally: “We can always talk about it at home, and they can always push me a little bit more.”
Holly: “It’s fun coaching them, they’re hard working kids. They listen which is good and they know at practice I’m coach or dad’s a coach and they have to listen like all the other athletes. And they’re good about it and it’s kind of special.”
Although, he may have some genetics on his side, Wally’s work ethic even comes through in his advice to youth.
Wally: “Just thank God for the hops that you have and then just try to work it’s form as much as you can.”