Junior Ella Anding joined track and cross country during her freshman year. After a series of struggles and achievements, she was promoted to varsity as a sophomore and fell in love with the sport, despite mental struggles.
Junior Ella Anding joined track and cross country during her freshman year. After a series of struggles and achievements, she was promoted to varsity as a sophomore and fell in love with the sport, despite mental struggles.
Peyton Kuschmeider

A happy place

Junior shares struggles and achievements in track and cross country

In and out.

Breathing — such a simple task. Yet, it was the one thing holding junior Ella Anding back.

What if I can’t breathe? What if I get hurt? What if I’m not fast enough?

The questions echoed through her mind before every race, sending her into panic attacks, until she realized she needed to do something about it. If she wanted to be a better runner, she had to overcome this.

So, that’s what she did.

Early life

Ella grew up in Plano with her parents and twin brother. 

When Ella was 3 years old, her father, Matt Anding, unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack.

“When you’re younger, [people] do daddy-daughter dances or little events,” Ella said. “I couldn’t really be a part of those. I kind of felt left out sometimes.”

Since Ella was young when her father passed away, she said she doesn’t remember much about him, but that it was difficult growing up with one parent.

“I remember little bits and pieces like little tiny memories from before,” Ella said. “But not enough to know what he sounded like.”

When you’re younger, [people] do daddy-daughter dances or little events. I couldn’t really be a part of those. I kind of felt left out sometimes

— Ella Anding, junior

Ella’s mom, Susanne Anding remarried to Ella’s current step-dad, Jim Doyle. The family moved to Lewisville where Ella started attending Castle Hills Elementary when she was around 8 years old.

Susanne placed Ella in multiple sports; however, she never found one to stick to. She played a variety of sports: gymnastics, volleyball, soccer, swimming and basketball, as well as taking piano and voice lessons.

“As a kid, I had her in pretty much every sport known to man,” Susanne said. “It was funny because she would do it for two weeks, and then she’d lose interest and quit.”

When Susanne was in medical school, she began running to get outside and take her mind off things. As her twin children were growing up, she would often try to get them into running as well.

Ella’s twin brother, Cole Anding, would often run with their mom; however, Ella hadn’t found her love for running yet, and did not enjoy running with their mother as much.

“My mom was a big runner, especially when I was growing up,” Ella said. “I always thought that was so cool, and it was a good habit to have.”

In the summer after Ella’s eighth grade year, she came to Susanne to tell her she wanted to join track and cross country. Susanne allowed her to join, but she never thought it would take off.

“When she said she wanted to join cross country, I was like, ‘This will never work,’” Susanne said. “I just remember having her try to run with me, and she would just collapse in someone’s front lawn and cry.”

Joining track and cross country

A friend of Ella’s encouraged her to join track and cross country in their freshman year. At first, she said she was skeptical because she was not very athletic, but she decided to do it for her friend.

“I didn’t think I was going to stay in it long,” Ella said. “But, I started liking it and it got easier.”

Ella started her freshman year on the JV team. That year was also the first year that head track coach Chance Edwards began working at Hebron.

“[As a freshman], she was just not ready to go to the next level mentally or physically,” Edwards said. “She wasn’t there yet, and I don’t think she viewed herself as that. Since then, I’ve seen her transformation.”

In the fall of her sophomore year, she was promoted to the varsity team.

“Not many sophomores get to do that,” Ella’s friend, junior Mikaia Jackson, said. ”It’s given her a spot to keep pushing for throughout high school.”

Mental struggles

After joining the varsity team, the pressure became too much.

Suddenly, she was a better runner. Suddenly, there were high expectations. Suddenly, she was panicking. 

“Running is hard, and it doesn’t feel good all the time,” Ella said. “I was scared during races that I would be hurting really bad, I wouldn’t be able to breathe or I would run slow.”

Ella had panic attacks and cried before almost every race. Her fear of racing was holding her back from reaching her full potential.

She struggled with exercise-induced laryngeal spasms. This would cause her airways to close up, making her unable to breathe, which contributed to the panic attacks.

“That was devastating,” Susanne said. “[She would] go out there and have to scratch a race because her airways closed and she couldn’t breathe or run the race.”

Ella said she felt embarrassed. She felt like people were annoyed with her for not participating with them. 

She knew she needed to find a way to get excited. She needed to push herself. 

“There was a team atmosphere that everyone had to get excited to race,” Ella said. “I felt like I wasn’t in the same mindset, and it set me apart from everybody.”

Ella approached her coach and asked for help. They talked and were able to work through Ella’s struggles. Edwards said he approached the situation by going easy on her. He tried to be patient, but they realized that approach wasn’t working.

There was a team atmosphere that everyone had to get excited to race. I felt like I wasn’t in the same mindset, and it set me apart from everybody.

— Ella Anding, junior

“If any coach in any state or in any sport could figure out how to get a kid through a mentally tough situation, they would bottle it up and sell it to everybody,” Edwards said. “We don’t know how to do it, and a lot of the time it’s on the kid.”

Edwards took the opposite approach, and began to hold Ella to higher expectations. He acknowledged that he added pressure to Ella’s situation, but they began to see improvements.

“She rose to the occasion,” Edwards said. “That’s the part that’s on the kid. You set the stage, but the kid has to step up there.”

Overcoming challenges and achieving goals

Ella said she is now able to run races without having panic attacks. 

“I look forward to racing instead of being scared of it,” Ella said. “That was a big thing I had to overcome.”

Edwards also said he has noticed improvements in Ella’s training. She is able to hit more intense workouts, as well as run faster and more often without injury.

“She’s more fit and stronger,” Edwards said. “She’s worked really hard in the weight room and running. She’s improved those aspects of her body and her mind.”

On the track team, Edwards said Ella stands out from other athletes because of the positive attitude she possesses. Not only is she a successful athlete, but she helps bring the team together as well. 

Edwards said many students find it difficult to get up early and run, and it’s something students struggle to stay motivated with; however, Ella remains happy and outgoing in the mornings. 

“Her showing up and being in a good spirit and happy makes a big difference,” Edwards said. “Not only for herself, but for the group.”

Her showing up and being in a good spirit and happy makes a big difference. Not only for herself, but for the group.

— Chance Edwards, head track coach

Jackson is also on the track and cross country team with Ella and said that Ella’s positive attitude keeps her motivated as well. She said being on a team with Ella has brought them closer together. 

“Since freshman year, [we would] just encourage each other [and] boost ourselves up to make sure we’re not feeling down,” Jackson said. “When we do feel down, we stay encouraged and know there’s someone who’s going to keep pushing you until the end.”

In August of 2023, Ella ran the Too Hot to Handle half marathon. The following December, she ran the BMW half marathon as well. 

The two half marathons were Ella’s own idea, not something she was forced or encouraged to do in school. She signed up for the marathons on her own, and ran the whole thing both times. 

“I was super proud of her,” Susanne said. “[She was] overachieving outside of her regular Hebron achievements.”

Due to a recent minor injury this year, Ella was forced to take about a week and a half off from running. 

Once again, the panic set in. 

She was worried that she wouldn’t be fit enough to run the same way she used to, but after some encouragement from her coach, she was able to gain her confidence back. 

Ella hit a personal record in a 1600 meter race, currently the second highest PR on her team. 

“Coming from a JV kid a year ago, that’s a big deal,” Edwards said. 

A happy place

Ella said she is most excited for the team’s summer training, where they will build their basis for cross country and spend time with teammates. 

“I’m really excited to practice with my team,” Ella said. “Get my runs in and do more team bonding.” 

Ella wants to attend either The University of Arkansas or The University of Mississippi to pursue a further career in athletics.

“I want to work with athletes,” Ella said. “I love talking about athletics, running and sports.”

Susanne said Ella has become focused on running and representing her school when she competes. She said it has been exciting for their family to see Ella become happy. 

“She’s more independent [and] more responsible,” Susanne said. “She’s in a happy place at Hebron, [and] she works hard at what she enjoys.”

Ella said running is a very self motivating thing, and one thing that keeps her motivated is thinking about her dad because he played sports when he was younger as well.

“When I run, I want to do it [in a way that] I would make him proud,” Ella said. “I want to put 100% of myself out there, so he could be proud [of me].”

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