Phillips Makes Her Mark


delaney gauthier

Phillips sits in her racing wheelchair before a practice.

Junior Ella Phillips is proving that equal opportunities in sports exist for everyone. She is participating in shotput and the 100 meter wheelchair track event this season.

“One of my friends a while back [did] track, and I decided to do track [because of him]. I got the wheelchair and throwing chair, and it was kind of fun,” Phillips says. “I have other friends who are [in track], and it’s one way to hang out with [them] outside of school.”

Phillips poses for her newest event, shotput, in her throwing chair.

Dane Weinberg is a University of Wisconsin-Whitewater student studying health, physical education and adapted PE. He is assisting Phillips this season as she trains for the event.

“I decided to enter the field of adapted coaching because I love athletics, and I think that there aren’t enough opportunities for athletes like Ella, and I wanted to make sure she had the best opportunity possible to succeed at her highest potential,” Weinberg says.

Phillips describes the warm-ups she does with help from Weinberg to get ready for competitions.

“You can’t compete if you’re not warmed up,” Phillips says. “Sometimes I do weightlifting afterschool. Sometimes [we] go outside.”

Weinberg details the types of warm-ups Phillips does, mentioning the wheelchair-specific exercises Phillips practices in order to be successful.

“Sometimes she will do a wheelchair specific workout in the gym followed by a chair practice outside. Other times we’ll go straight outside and focus on the chair only. The focus changes from day to day on what specific skill we’re working on. Some days it’s endurance, others it’s lane integrity or pushing speed. It all depends on what I see from her and what I think she needs to work on,” Weinberg says.

Phillips says that though participating in a sport can be hard work, she enjoys the extra time she gets to spend with her teammates and friends because of it.

“[My favorite part of track] is probably competing, myself and other competitors. It’s one of my favorite [things,]” Phillips says.

Phillips smiles during a track meet. (photo submitted by susan zaemisch)

“My favorite part about working with Ella is her positive attitude everyday when she walks in,” Weinberg adds. “Everyday she smiles and says ‘Hey coach, what were you thinking for today’ which is a great attitude to come in with. There’s plenty of other athletes who dread practice, but it seems like Ella is just happy to be there and be included, which is awesome for everyone.”

Phillips agrees, adding that some of her favorite memories from being on the track team involve cheering on her friends. “I like having fun with my friends and cheering them on [and them] cheering me on. They cheer me on a lot. I competed [recently] in the 100 meter, and I was focusing, not looking at the crowd, [but I heard] my name,” Phillips says.

In a track meet on April 19, Phillips beat her personal best for the 100 meter wheelchair race, her time coming in at 44.01 seconds.

“I’ve never done that […] I was like, ‘Okay, I beat my record from last year!’” Phillips says.

As a future physical educator, Weinberg has been grateful for the opportunity to work with Phillips, which allows her to receive specialized instruction.

“Stoughton is amazing for hiring a one-on-one coach to make sure that Ella gets enough instruction on her own as it has really helped her flourish, and I know there’s many places where that is not the case. Also, Coach Zaemisch and Nelson do a great job of including Ella and having the whole program cheer for her and get behind her, which is great to see,” Weinberg says.

“Some words of advice for people thinking about joining track are, just do it,” Weinberg says. “There’s so many different events that you can do in track that you’re bound to be good at something. The variety is awesome, from throwing, to long distance running, to jumping, pole vaulting, and sprinting, there’s really something for everyone.”

Phillips echoes the sentiment, saying that the most important thing about joining a sport is to be confident. “Work hard, definitely, and we know that you’re gonna get tired, but push yourself hard. […] Have fun, see your friends,” Phillips says.