Kendall Ellis, originally from Pembroke Pines, Florida is an American track and field athlete representing New Balance. Specializing in the 400 meters, she also competes in the 200 meters. While at the University of Southern California, Kendall was a 4-time NCAA champion and the Collegiate and American Record Holder for the indoor 400. She is a 14-time All-American, 5-time Pac-12 Champion, and had a viral relay leg at the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Championship. Graduating in 3 years with her Bachelors in Business Administration, she continued on to receive her Masters in Business Administration from DeVry University. Beyond track and field, Kendall is passionate about mentorship and volunteering. She comes from a family where giving back was always emphasized and her parents, Wanda and Sam, made sure their daughters were well rounded. Kendall is the youngest of 3 daughters and has been running since she was 7 years old.
How does it feel for running and racing to finally be heading in the direction of normalcy?
It feels good! We’re not all the way there yet (still no spectators at most meets) but I’m appreciative of the fact that I am able to compete, unlike in 2020.
What was one of the things you missed during this year of Covid restrictions?
Going out to eat at restaurants. I love to eat, it’s my go-to social activity, so it sucked not being able to go do that.
What was one of the biggest training hurdles during this period and how did you deal with it?
Not having a track to train on. Considering I’m a sprinter, a track is kind of a must have. Long runs and trails aren’t really my thing, so it was tough having to adjust to not having a track. The whole training group had to adapt and I think that helped a lot. We were all together dealing with the same issues, so having somebody next to you day in and day out working through it was comforting. We just made it work, running hills, in neighborhoods, finding a track whenever we could. We understood the situation and did the best we could with what we had, trusting our coach.
Most professional athletes were just stars at a regular high school but you attended St. Thomas Aquinas which is expected to excel in everything. Did you deal with any pressure to succeed?
Shoutout to my Raiders! Going into high school, the coach at St. Thomas was the same coach I’d had since I started running at 7 years old, so for me there wasn’t much of a difference. I didn’t think of it as going to a prestigious high school, I just thought of it as going to the same school my older sister went to and continuing to train with the same coach I had always been with. I knew that being a part of St. Thomas’ team meant winning, so it was more so something I expected to happen, rather than something I felt pressure about.
How do you think your time at St. Thomas prepared you for the college level?
I say this with the most love for my time at St. Thomas, but I’m not sure that it prepared me. I’m not sure anything could’ve prepared me for the collegiate level, it’s just so much more intense than high school. I remember being winded from the warm up freshman year of college. It’s just a different level that takes some adjusting.
What's your favorite part about being on the relay team?
It’s so much fun. Considering track is so individual, it’s nice to get to get back to that team aspect through the relay. My favorite part is having teammates to rely on and also motivate you to do well. It’s bigger than just me and I like that.
What is one important tip that you'd give a younger athlete from your experience over the years?
To have fun. It sounds cliché and corny, but I really do wish I had taken more time to just enjoy the sport. I’ve robbed myself of so many opportunities because I was stressed about the competition instead of just enjoying being around my teammates, getting to travel and just having fun. I think we can get so caught up in expectations and the pressure and forget why we started the sport in the first place; because it was fun.
If could no longer run both the individual 400 meter and 4x400 relay, which would you choose to continue competing in?
The individual. At the end of the day I love track partially because it’s an individual sport. The relay is fun, but the individual really shows who you are.
What's your biggest pet peeve?
I have so many. Let’s go with liars.
What's your biggest fear?
Paralysis. Getting stuck in a water tube slide. Getting stuck in an elevator.
What's it like to be a part of the New Balance team?
It’s so great. The New Balance team really is a family and they make it feel like one. It’s nice to be with a brand that cares about you as a person, more than just as an athlete or number.
Who would you say is the funniest teammate?
It’s a toss up between Michael Norman and Rai Benjamin. Both of them keep me laughing for different reasons I can’t disclose. Just know they’re some funny guys.
Do you like ice baths?
Nope I do not. Because who enjoys being freezing cold? Not I.
In your free time when you’re not running, what hobby’s do you enjoy?
I watch entirely too much YouTube. I watch that more than anything. I love reading, and when I’m in the mood for it, baking.
When it comes to running, what would you say is your biggest strength and weakness?
I’d say my biggest strength is my finish. Whether I have a great start or not, I’m very confident in my strength to close out a race. I’d say my biggest weakness is putting too much pressure on myself and overthinking it. Sometimes it’s just not that deep, go run and be you.
Who is someone you look up to in the sport?
Georganne Moline. I really love her honesty and transparency, which is something I always try to have as well. Beyond her athletic achievements, she’s so kind and just someone I really admire.
Who is one of your favorite athletes to train with?
Michael Norman. Even though he’s a guy (and a really fast one at that), so we don’t directly train side by side, I still really love being around him at practice. He’s always positive, really loves this sport, and makes the tough workouts a little more bearable with his attitude and humor.
What's next for you?
A few more meets leading up to the Olympic Trials and then hopefully Tokyo!
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