Spring Grove's Ella Bahn a rising star in several sports
When Ella Bahn stepped foot into the AAU Junior Olympics in Greensboro, N.C., she had no clue how she would perform. The natural feelings of nervousness and uncertainty entered her thoughts — after all, who wouldn’t be nervous before competing in front of some of the best athletes in the country for their age group?
The 14-year-old was also in North Carolina to compete in one of the toughest Olympic events on the schedule. The AAU Junior Pentathlon, consisting of the 100-meter hurdles, shot put, high jump, long jump, and 800-meter dash, is one part of the largest national multi-sport event for youth in the United States.
After earning a spot through her AAU regional qualifier in Philadelphia, Bahn wasn't deterred from competing at her best. Still, it was a surprise to her when she placed third place in the pentathlon, heading home with a bronze medal and the right to call herself an All-American.
“I’m really proud of what I did," Bahn said. "Going into it, I was of course nervous and not really sure what would happen, but I’m glad I decided to do it in the end. I loved getting the chance to compete with other pentathletes and see where I’m at compared to people who have talents similar to mine."
Even her parents said they were surprised by the results of their daughter’s performance.
“We were extremely proud. We didn’t know how she would stack up against other top athletes on a hot day in a place she had never been before," said Brian Bahn, Ella's father and cross-country coach. "The girls there are serious. You really have to focus in that environment, and what she did was outstanding."
Bahn has only been doing track since the seventh grade but was a well-established athlete thanks to her experience in gymnastics. She started when she was just 2 years old at a place called Champions and has been doing it ever since. She currently competes in XCEL Sapphire at Skyline Gymnastics.
The high school freshman has excelled at the sport, winning multiple state championships at the 2022 XCEL State Gymnastics Meet. She placed first in beam, second in bars, second in vault, eighth in floor, and first in the all-around competition.
Bahn said gymnastics has helped with her balance and ability to run track.
“I think gymnastics has honestly helped me with all of my athletics. It’s just really nice to have learned that kind of coordination and agility from a young age and be able to apply it to other sports," she said. "Gymnastics has especially helped me with hurdles and jumping in track."
Competing at such a high level at her age has allowed Bahn to handle the pressure that comes with competing against other top athletes.
“My favorite part of gymnastics is that it never gets old," she said. "I’m constantly learning new, more difficult skills and it gives me a chance to challenge myself."
Bahn established herself as one of the top up-and-coming athletes in York County well before stepping into high school. In addition to her gymnastics experience, she took her first steps into the running world with the Trojan Track Club near York Suburban. The Trojan Club has given her the chance to test herself against some of the best runners in the county. Brian Bahn said that his daughter has benefitted from spending her time there and has already built relationships with several of the others runners.
Ella Bahn always knew she would run track — after all, both of her parents are track coaches. Her mother, Tara, works at Hanover High School, while Brian has been the cross-country coach at Spring Grove for the past 12 years. Ella's parents nicknamed her “The Cheetah” when she was young.
The Rockets athlete hasn’t slowed down. Just a few weeks into her high school cross country career, she earned first overall during Spring Grove’s meet with New Oxford at Dover on September 9. She completed the course with a time of 21:37.9. Then, Bahn made school history by running a 19:53.68 for the 5K Ben Bloser Bulldog XC Invitational at Big Spring. That’s the second-fastest time in the history of Spring Grove, an especially impressive feat in only her third time running a 5K.
The Rockets have a home meet Tuesday against Central York, West York and Littlestown.
Despite the multi-sport success, Bahn has remained humble setting realistic goals for her high school path.
“I would love to eventually get my name on the record board at our track for at least one event,” she said. And there is plenty of time for Bahn to make good on that goal before she graduates in 2026.
Bahn said she also hopes to do more experiences like the pentathlon in Greensboro, but wants to focus on her other activities as well.
“I love competing at this level in track, but I don’t want to make it the only thing I do with my life," she said. "I still want to have time to do gymnastics and my other hobbies."
With Bahn currently doing multiple sports, her parents hope to help their daughter not burn out. Her mother majored in kinesiology at Penn State and helps to keep Ella healthy during her competitive seasons. So far, the process has yielded success across the board.
“The idea is to not push her too much," Brian Bahn said. "Do cross country and see how many miles you are running a week. Sometimes, coaches and parents push them too early. We don’t want to do that. The important part is, are you having a good time and keeping her focused."