Kendall Ellis admits she wasn’t always a good runner. That’s a brave confession coming from a world champion sprinter.
For Kendall, it’s never just been about being the best. It’s been about the journey – the patience and hard work required to become great at a sport – and the belief that athletic achievement doesn’t happen overnight. She attributes her success to her dedication and discipline, and the coaches who believed in her.
Kendall grew up in an athletic family, watching her dad and cousins play basketball. In her neighborhood filled with kids playing soccer, kickball and other sports, it made sense that Kendall would find her way to an organized sport. And while her parents wanted their three daughters to excel in school and have a well-rounded education, they never expected her to become a star athlete.
Kendall started running when she was seven. But it wasn’t until junior year in high school that she started to take the sport seriously, when she realized her potential to excel depended on how hard she worked. When she committed herself, she developed confidence and determination to become the best. “Going to the Olympics was something I wanted because I knew I was capable,” says Kendall.
She attests that without her coaches, she wouldn’t be where she is today. From age seven until 18, Coach Alex, Kendall’s coach at a local track and field club, never left her side. He was much more than a coach – he was a mentor and a friend. Without him, she says, she would’ve walked off the track long ago. In addition to helping her with her running, he encouraged a whole and balanced life, which included being kind to others, having friends and cultivating a life outside sports.
In college, the extraordinary faith of an Olympics coach who reassured her that her dreams could come true motivated Kendall to shoot for the Olympics. While a sophomore-year injury delayed her Olympic tryouts, she won many races, including the 400-meter dash in the 2018 NCAA Division 1 Indoor Track and Field Championships in College Station, Texas and the 2018 Pac-12 Track and Field Championships in Stanford, California. She is considered one of the fastest quarter milers in collegiate history.
During these college years Kendall also became a volunteer with Coaching Corps. She babysat and coached kids in the past, and she missed interacting with them and sharing what she knows about sports. Watching the kids enjoy running and playing with each other reminded her of the joy she got from running as a child. Being a coach keeps her connected to that happiness: “My sport is very serious – we’re always laser focused on training and winning,” said Kendall. “The kids reminded me that hard work and fun can coexist.”