Going once, going twice, going three times — it’s a hop, skip, and a jump, and track star Ella Brown is one of SFU’s top connoisseurs and experts on the subject of the deviously difficult triple jump.
Having come from the Okanagan a few years ago, Brown’s been a track and field enthusiast since grade school, taking up triple jump in particular in grade 10. She’s been quite the solid component of the track team since her decision to attend SFU right out of high school.
Ask her who her biggest fan is and there are two answers: her parents, of course, and her old track and field coach back home, Ian Cameron. Brown partially attributes her decision to come to SFU in the first place to him.
“I was really lucky because [Cameron] was a really, really good coach. I started doing well in grade 11, and he sent my results to SFU and he was like, ‘This is what she’s done; are you interested?’ They ended up saying yes [. . .] and I ended up coming here.”
Though Brown was considering attending the University of Alberta, the deal-breaker for her was the distance and SFU’s well-known status as the only Canadian university tied to the NCAA. The adjustment to living in an unfamiliar city came with some natural fear in the beginning, but Brown was quick to find camaraderie with her teammates.
“[Even now,] all of my friends still are my teammates. [. . .] I think everybody that I’ve met, directly or indirectly, have been because of the track team. All of my friends are from other teams, or [are people that] I’ve met because of people I know on other teams. It’s a really great network to get to know people.”
Her first few track meets were “super intimidating,” Brown says — she notes past events hosted at the University of Washington were particularly worrisome, mentioning the presence of Olympian athletes. Yet the healthy and welcoming environment that she finds consistently surrounding the track and field events she’s attended helps with the nerves.
Fast forward to the present, and Brown’s got an impressive enough record that some might say she has little to be nervous about. At the most recent Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) indoor championships, Brown scored her first-ever conference title, as did teammates Chantel Desch, Addy Townsend, and Vladislav Tsygankov.
“You do have to work really hard for it. If you want to be great, you have to make yourself great.”
But rather than rest on her well-earned laurels — a glowing 12.14-metre jump, as opposed to the next closest distance of 11.70 metres — the triple jump expert remains vigilant: “Even though there’s such a big gap, […] I’ve been beaten on the last jump so many times that [I know that] the competition is never over until it’s over.”
Nationals are coming up quickly this year, with the final opportunity to qualify to be at this weekend’s meet. The minimum intake of competitors is 16; Brown says she’s currently ranked 10th.
Her success this year makes for a great note to end off on. Having reached her fourth and final year on the track team, Brown’s got some mixed emotions.
“It’s bittersweet. I’ve been doing track for so long that it’s going to be really weird not doing track anymore, and obviously, I really love track. Then again, I’ll be able to get a ski pass for Whistler next year.”
Of course, after so much time, emotion, and effort invested in her primary sport, Brown’s taken things away from her experiences that’ll stay with her long after the conclusion of her time as a Clan triple jumper. She notes that her time management and her ability to stay healthy and in shape have sharpened significantly over time.
“You’re practicing five days a week, and then you have your practice, which is an hour and a half, and then you have to lift [. . .] which is probably another hour at least, separate out of your practice time [. . .] and then once our season starts, we’re gone every weekend.”
As for where Brown sees track and field slotting into her future, she notes that she’d “really like to do track after school and commit fully to it.” On the flipside, she’s studying resource and environmental management right now and expresses interest in working in provincial parks.
Asked what her biggest piece of advice would be for anyone just developing an interest in track, whether that’s before or after enrolling in SFU, Brown places emphasis on the need for dedication and self-discipline.
“You’ve really got to want it. Don’t be afraid, because everyone’s going to be nice, and it’s going to be fine. But you do have to work really hard for it. If you want to be great, you have to make yourself great.”
Brown might finally be coming back down to earth after a four-year-long leap into the apex of track and field excellence, but she’s sticking the landing with poise. Her recent achievements only cement this; we’re wishing her luck for the rest of her final season.
Fun Fact: As a superhero, what would you want your superpower to be?
“I would fly, 100%. But the thing is, I wouldn’t want to be cold when I fly. I’d have to, you know, be immune to that.”