By Christy Cabrera Chirinos
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – There were days, so many days, she asked herself why she was there.
She’d voluntarily redshirted her 2018 season, stepping away from competing for the Hurricanes to focus on her demanding course of study in Miami’s School of Nursing and Health Studies.
Still, as Brittny Ellis juggled a grueling class schedule and her clinical nursing rotations at various Miami hospitals, she pushed herself to be at as many workouts and on-campus track meets as she possible, especially since NCAA rules allowed her to still run as an unattached athlete.
Her presence, she hoped, would not only encourage her teammates, but help her stay in shape for when she planned to return to competition a year later.
It wasn’t always easy.
“My season ended at a random home meet, but I kept practicing until May with the team and that was really hard. I remember there were many days where I woke up just mad, like, ‘Why am I here? I’m not even competing,'” Ellis recalled. “But it meant more to me because I was able to run with some friends again. … Some days, I didn’t want to be there because I was just training for no reason. That was tough. To this day, I don’t know why I did it. I guess that’s just my passion for track.”
That passion, though, extends beyond the track and that’s why, on Sunday, Ellis – who graduated last May and is already a licensed nurse – is one of 11 Hurricanes student-athletes who will be honored at Miami’s Celebration of Women’s Athletics.
The event, which will take place at the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility and will be emceed by Kelly Saco, celebrates the excellence of Miami’s female student-athletes on and off the field, in the classroom and in the community.
Along with Ellis, Miami will also recognize basketball standout Beatrice Mompremier, diver Alicia Blagg, golfer Renate Grimstad, rower Meredith Costello, soccer player Kristina Fisher, swimmer Sydney Knapp, track and field athlete Debbie Ajagbe, volleyball player Elizaveta Lukianova and two reigning NCAA national champions, pentathlete Michelle Atherley and tennis player Estela Perez-Somarriba.
Each of them has excelled in their respective sports and has a remarkable story all her own.
“To have three of our athletes recognized this year is a great honor,” said Amy Deem, Miami’s Director of Track & Field and Cross Country. “It’s a tribute to all of them because they’ve come here and they’ve made the most of their experiences here at Miami, both on and off the track.”
In Ellis’ case, that experience included spending time caring for patients in the critical care unit at University of Miami Hospital as part of her studies and winning four ACC track titles.
After her redshirt year, she bounced back in 2019 to earned All-America Honorable Mention recognition in both the 400-meter and the 4×400 relay. She won the ACC Silver Medal in both events and has kicked off her redshirt senior indoor season by winning the 400-meter at the Wolverine Invitational with a meet-record time of 54.71 seconds.
She believes she can do better and her goal is to continue improving on that time as the season continues – while she continues working toward a master’s degree in health informatics.
“Right now, my times aren’t exactly where they used to be. I’m just still trying to work back into that. So, I’d really like to see my times improve,” Ellis said. “Then my goal is to make it to indoor nationals, which is in March in Albuquerque and then from there, just finish strong in the outdoor season. In June, I want to be in the NCAA outdoor nationals in Austin, Texas and go out with a bang.”
Added Deem, “I think we’ve hit the right things and I think she’s really going to end up in a great place from an athletic perspective. … Last year, she kind of got back to where she left off in some aspects, but this year, I think, she’ll surpass that and before the season’s over, she will see more personal bests and do some of the things that were the reason for her coming back.”
And after that happens, Ellis expects she’ll start the next chapter of her life.
She has already begun applying for nursing jobs at some of the top hospitals in the country, including the renowned Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
She says whether it’s there or anywhere else that she cares for patients, it was her time at Miami – both as a student and an athlete – that helped prepare her for all she’ll face and without support from Deem and her professors, she couldn’t have accomplished all she has.
“It’s been amazing. I don’t think I could have gotten an experience like this anywhere else. Being able to do track and nursing at the same time was hard enough in and of itself,” Ellis said. “I found that out during the recruiting process, that many schools wouldn’t allow me to do that.
“Miami was one of the few that would make the accommodations, such as redshirting me, to keep me here and allowed me to do nursing. Now, I have a nursing degree and I can go anywhere with that. … And then the track aspect, I have accomplished a lot here in my time. We won conference four times. I won, personally, the ACCs in the 400. I don’t think I would have gotten that anywhere else.”