Triple threat: Eastlake’s Woerner thrives as a versatile athlete
August 23, 2014
By Neil Pierson
Anyone who attended an Eastlake High School girls sporting event in the past year likely saw Ellie Woerner in action.
During her junior year, Woerner was a three-sport standout for Eastlake. Last fall, she earned All-KingCo Conference second-team volleyball honors as a middle hitter. Over the winter, she averaged 11 points, three rebounds and two assists per game to help the Lady Wolves basketball squad win 18 games. And in the spring, she starred on the track by winning state medals in the 100-meter hurdles and 4×100 relay.
Simply playing three sports at the varsity level makes Woerner a rare breed in today’s world of high-school athletics.
It’s tough to pin down exact numbers, but in 2011, the National Federation of State High School Associations reported less than 40 percent of athletes participated in multiple sports. At large schools like Eastlake, only 28 percent did. And three-sport athletes are much less common.
“I don’t think there’s more than a handful in all of Eastlake,” said Sara Goldie, the school’s girls head basketball coach.
What makes Woerner special, and how is she able to maintain a perfect 4.0 grade-point average on top of her athletic commitments?
She cited a few reasons, most notably the way different sports focus on different skill sets. In volleyball, she spends her time jumping and diving. In track, it’s all about speed and flexibility.
“I think that’s part of why – knock on wood – I haven’t gotten too badly injured, because I’m always working different muscles and playing different sports,” Woerner said.
“To anyone who wants to play three sports, I would say, ‘Do it,’” she added. “It’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve made throughout high school … A lot of people have told me, if basketball is your main priority, why do you play the other sports? But I just couldn’t give them up – I think they help me so much with basketball, and I have so much fun doing them.”
With-out question, basketball is Woer-ner’s first love and top priority. In the spring, she often left track workouts early to attend AAU basketball practices. She missed a large chunk of time in April when her Seattle-based squad, Tree of Hope, traveled to Virginia.
Tree of Hope qualified for July’s Nike Nationals in North Augusta, S.C., the culminating event for 24 teams in the nationwide Elite Youth Basketball League. The team reached the championship game before losing in overtime, 65-60.
Woerner starts as a wing – a combination shooting guard/small forward, for the AAU squad, playing alongside some well-known Puget Sound-area stars like Makala Roper (Cleveland), Deja Strother (Inglemoor), Kelli Kingma (Jackson), and Eastlake teammate Marijke Vanderschaaf.
“We were kind of the underdogs, I think – it’s the first year of us being a Nike-sponsored team,” Woerner explained. “We were so close to winning, but I think we were all really proud of ourselves and how far we went.”
With several key players graduating at Eastlake, Woerner may play a larger role than ever this winter on the hardwood. She played point guard last season, although she’s likely to return to the wing as a senior because the program has a new player coming in who is a true point guard, Goldie said.
Woerner and Goldie connected for the first time in a health class at Inglewood, and the two quickly formed a strong relationship. Goldie nicknamed her “Dub,” after the first letter of Woerner’s last name.
Woerner was the lone sophomore on Eastlake’s 2012-13 team. Goldie met with her before the season and talked about the pressure she’d be under, playing with older girls, and that the coach wasn’t going to give her special treatment.
Woerner didn’t blink.
“From the second she walked into our program, she was up for the challenge of being an impact player,” Goldie said. “The drive in her eyes, the excitement for it, it kind of started there.”
Woerner has cherished her time with the program, noting that Goldie and her staff promote a close-knit environment on and off the court.
“It’s been really important to them that we’re family,” Woerner said.
Woerner is nearing the end of her college recruitment process, too. She’s keeping her list of potential schools private, but expects to make a decision in the near future. And she has a strong mentor to help her decide – her mother, Kris, played basketball at the University of Colorado.
First up, though, is her final season of volleyball. With her basketball commitments taking precedent, she had no time to play volleyball during the summer, but she likely won’t need much time to adjust.
“Volleyball is just a season that’s so fun for me – it doesn’t have that kind of pressure to work to getting into college,” she explained.
If things go according to plan, Woerner will have a chance next spring to add to her hardware collection at state Track. She already has five state medals, including a third-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles and a fifth-place finish in the 400 relay in 2014.
She was a bit amazed with those accomplishments since basketball cut into her track season. She credits Eastlake hurdles coach Steve Skinner for being flexible and understanding, and maximizing her training time.
“I knew it was going to be a hard year of track, and I didn’t really know how far I was going to go,” Woerner said.
Goldie said she’s had many multi-sport athletes come through her basketball program, and having them is usually a good thing because they tend to be more competitive and bring an unique skill sets to the court.
“Generally speaking, I am an advocate, 100 percent, for multi-sport athletes,” Goldie said. “I think it is tough for kids when they play the same sport year-round.”