UC San Diego cross country runner Ella Verhees placed ninth overall and earned All-West Region honors at the NCAA West Regional on Nov. 4 in Monmouth, Ore. The senior crossed the finish line in the 6K race in 21-minutes, 30.4-seconds to qualify for the NCAA Championships on Nov. 18 in Evansville, Ind. In the process, Ella became the first Triton to qualify for the national meet as an individual since 2008. An All-California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) performer, Ella finished first for the Tritons in six-consecutive meets to finish the season. We caught up with her to discuss the season, what it's like majoring in human development and her long-time celebrity crush.
Q: What was it like competing at the West Regional and how did it feel to qualify for the NCAA Championships?
Ella: Oregon was cold! At race time, the weather was in the high 30’s and we were bundled in all of our cold weather gear. But the race was super fun, everybody was intense and had lots of energy. It’s hard not to put a lot of nervous energy into this race because it’s essentially the only chance you have to make it to nationals. I stayed confident and trusted my training, and it worked out.
Q: What was it like growing up in San Diego and attending Point Loma HS?
Ella: San Diego has so much fun stuff to offer, you can go hiking in the mountains and bodysurf in the same day. I felt like I was always adventuring with my friends, family or dog. Point Loma wasn’t known for having a great athletics program, so I feel very fortunate that I was able to continue my running career in college.
Q: What do you like most about attending UC San Diego?
Ella: I have met the best people at UCSD because it brings together so many different kinds of personalities and I love them all.
Q: Why did you decide to major in human development, and what are the biggest challenges?
Ella: I like how Human Development is an interdisciplinary major; it offers the freedom to dabble in different areas of study like human bio, psychology and sociology. This is also the challenge with this major because once I find something that I could see myself going further with, I take another class that sparks my interest. It’s hard to narrow down a career path!
Q: What do you enjoy most about competing in cross country?
Ella: I like how all the miles we run during practice pay off when we compete. It is such a mental sport and I feel that especially in college I have been able to work on my mental strength which has helped me become so much of a better athlete.
Q: If you could go anywhere for vacation, where would you go?
Ella: I want to go hop islands in Indonesia. Because it would be radical.
Q: Do you have a celebrity crush?
Ella: Harrison Ford, I have been in love with him for who knows how long.
Q: Prefer the beach and ocean or outdoors activities?
Ella: I love both so much, can’t pick between the two
Q: Prefer taco shop, burger joint or pizza place?
Ella: Taco shop
Q: Favorite athlete?
Ella: My dad, Rob Verhees. He started running after me and is now an amazing athlete and competitor.
Q: Favorite music artists?
Ella: Vance Joy, The Clash, and The Kooks
Q: Favorite thing to watch?
Ella: Bat-Dad videos (at the moment)
Q: Favorite fruit?
Q: What are your thoughts on the upcoming NCAA Championships, and what do you need to do in order to be successful there?
Ella: I need to stay relaxed and not get sucked up into the hype of the race. Just stay calm and confident with my own pace.
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