Cross country captain Ella Yarkin leads the charge
By Milo Carr, Social Media & Co-Content Editor
Nearly eight years ago, senior Ella Yarkin competed in the Turkey Trot, as many Chautauqua elementary schoolers have. At the time, she had no idea the short race would inspire a passion for running that would establish her as one of the most accomplished cross country runners at VHS.
After running the Turkey Trot, Yarkin joined the middle school’s track team, and the moment she started high school, she signed up for cross country. She has been on the team for three years now, each year holding the best girls 5k record. While many people find running long distances difficult to manage, Yarkin deeply appreciates the time she spends on the move.
“Sometimes running is like meditation and I think about nothing at all or focus on my breathing,” she said. “When I do think about something, it’s usually just enjoying the moment and where I am.”
Finding beauty in her surroundings, Yarkin uses what some see as insignificant landmarks to keep her going. While many may prefer to run with a soundtrack, she opts for silence, and on the rare occasion she does listen to music, she is not picky.
During the quarantined summer, Yarkin spent most of her time in San Luis Obispo, focusing on studying for the AP exams. The change in scenery motivated her to run even more, and on an average day she ran or walked 20,000 to 30,000 steps.
“I was always curious what was around the next bend or over the next ridge,” she said. “I ran into multiple herds of very standoffish cows, and one of my favorite outings was to go hang out with the Cal Poly goats.”
Many students marvel at Yarkin’s ability to keep moving― 140,000 steps per week does seem superhuman. But Yarkin, like every other person, thinks about giving up from time to time.
“Pretty much every race I come to a point where a big part of me wants to give up. Sometimes I think about how if I trip on a root, I can just walk the rest of the way and avoid all the pain but I’ve never actually done it,” Yarkin said.
Having been running for years, barely stopping between seasons, Yarkin has found COVID-19 restrictions disheartening. It is her last season on a high school team, and although she plans to run competitively in college, she hopes cross country meets resume in April.
“Not having meets this fall has really shown me how much I value the sport,” she said. “I’m also so thankful for how supportive the cross country team is. My coaches too have served as amazing role models and guides.”
She attributes much of her success to her coaches and teammates, who have always been there to cheer her on.
For the past three years, Yarkin has run with recent graduates Isabelle Spence and Ellie Lande, but this year she will be running with five new girls, four of them freshmen. One of the new runners is her sister, Madeline Yarkin.
“I have high hopes for them and am proud of how far they’ve come already. Even though the team is completely different than when I started, I’m still running with great people.” she said.