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FREMONT – It’s been all too easy of late to think about all that’s been lost this spring for all of Fremont Ross’ seniors.

But Friday, instead of mourning the past and wondering what could have been, McKela Elder, her family and some socially-distant friends and relatives, got a chance to look forward to a promising future and celebrate career that is far from over.

McKela Elder

Friday afternoon, Elder officially committed to continue her cross country and track and field career at Division III Ohio Wesleyan University.

“It felt like I’m officially part of the team and I can finally go on,” Elder said. “This track season getting cancelled, it was really upsetting for me. But I at least knew I had the collegiate level to do more things. And I’m excited about that because I have more hopes and more goals to achieve and I know I can.”

Though her college commitment took place at her home, and not at school, Elder’s signing was a welcome return to something resembling normal for everyone.

“You can only do so much talking by phone and texting and so on,” said cross country coach John Elder, no relation. “It was nice to have in-person chats.”

For four years, McKela Elder was nothing short of stellar on the cross country course and in the three seasons she spent on the track before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the athletic cancellation of her senior year.

She is a four-time cross country regional meet qualifier and made two trips to the state meet and was also a three-time first-team All-TRAC member.

As a junior, she set a new program record in the 800 with a time of 2:16.60 — a full second off the longest-standing girls record — and went on to finish eighth in the regional meet. She won the TRAC championship in 800, was runner-up in the 1600 and helped the Lady Giants capture the team TRAC championship as well. She also is a three-time district-qualifier in swimming as well.

McKela Elder, center, sprints to the finish line of the Division I cross country state meet.

But all her success did nothing to ease the difficulty of her senior year being so unceremoniously shortened.

“I think we were all just in shock, honestly,” she said. “We were so looking forward to graduation and everything. But then we had it all taken from us unexpectedly and we all regret not taking the time to appreciate every little thing. I didn’t know I ran my last practice that last day. I would have tried harder. Or saying ‘Hi’ to your teachers every day and under-appreciating every little moment.”

When life returns to normal and Elder arrives at Ohio Wesleyan, she said her coaches believe she’ll immediately step into their top crop of runners and they have penciled her into the 800 and 1600 in track season, as well as perhaps the 400.

John Elder believes, in addition to her physical abilities, what sets McKela apart, and what will be instrumental in her success moving forward, is how amendable she is to coaching.

“She’s very coachable, which I always appreciate,” he said. “She always did what we asked of her, but it’s not like she followed us blindly. She was very much part of her own training. She had a voice in her training. And she is a great teammate. Ohio Wesleyan is great place for her.”

McKela Elder said she plans to study exercise science and occupational therapy at Ohio Wesleyan.

And while her season year, like so many others, may not have gone according to plan, at least one day turned out memorable, mostly because of how normal it felt.

“I didn’t think I’d get a normal signing with all my friends and everyone there, but we had it socially-distant and, it honestly felt like a regular signing. I loved it.”

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