Most high school athletes wouldn’t get very far without their parents.
In the case of Hanford senior Jalen DeVine and Kamiakin junior Ellie Heiden, the Tri-City Herald Athletes of the Year, they might not have even started in their top sports.
With 10 track and field state championships through her first three seasons, Heiden is on track to become the most decorated Class 3A/4A athlete Star Track has ever seen in 2014.
But without her mom, Joanna, those medals could have easily gone to someone else.
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“My mom took me to my first track meet at age 9, and I was (entered in) the 400 (meters). These girls were as tall as my dad, so I was sitting up in the bleachers, bawling my eyes out. ‘Mom, I don’t want to run. Track is too much pressure. I don’t want to do this,’ ” Ellie said. “My mom said, ‘Ellie, you do this one time, and I’ll never make you run ever again.’ My mom said I won by about 50 yards.”
The legend of Ellie Heiden continues to grow with every PR and every medal, but the speed she was blessed with (“She was born fast,” said Joanna) didn’t come out of nowhere. Her mom was a pretty fair sprinter in her time at Glendale High School in California.
“My best in the 400 was 60 (seconds) flat, and she shattered that,” Joanna said. “But I still have her in one race. I ran a 12.15 in the 100, and her best is 12.16.”
But Ellie may also have an edge on the soccer field, where she finished tied for third among Mid-Columbia Conference goal scorers with 13 and added three assists.
She’s so good at soccer, in fact, that she’s still undecided about which sport to pursue in college. In a perfect world, maybe both.
“She’s being smart and keeping her options open,” her mom said, hinting that she had her eye on the Pac-12 Conference.
Until then, Ellie has another year to get a little stronger and (scary thought) a little bit better. But she’s determined to not let success go to her head.
“My parents definitely keep me grounded. I’m always amazed at how much work everyone else is putting in around me — especially our cross-country girls. I always try to be how they are,” she said. “I realize this is a gift I’ve been given. It’s not something I’m doing by myself.”
If you wanted an according-to-Webster’s definition of the ideal student athlete, you might see a picture of DeVine — a three-sport standout who was critical to the success of the football, basketball and baseball teams.
Oh, and by the way, he hasn’t had anything less than an A since the sixth grade.
“I might have had an A- in seventh or eighth grade,” he said.
He excelled on the football field, too, after a rigorous pre-season training schedule that included daily runs — with weight belts strapped to his body — straight up Badger Mountain in Richland.
His hard work paid off, as he finished third in the MCC in rushing with 1,448 yards — including three games over 200 yards — and 13 touchdowns.
“(The reward) was the performances that come with it,” he said. “You’ve got to perform your best, but when you do it right, the entire school is proud of you.”
But unless his father, former Falcons standout Dennis “Denny” DeVine, talked him into staying with football before his freshman season, Hanford would have had to go without its best running back.
“We always thought he’d further himself in basketball, but football came through,” Dennis said. “He kind of wanted to fade out in football, but I was a mean dad and told him he wasn’t going to.”
Jalen appreciates his dad’s competitiveness, which rubs off on him, though he still can’t seem to break it.
“We have a ping-pong table, and we’ve played hundreds of games. I’ve beaten him maybe twice,” Jalen said. “Another thing he taught me is (the value of) perfection. After a game, he always tells me the bad things first. I don’t know if I want compliments after a game. It only helps me.”
Football came through in another way. It’s paying his way through college in the form of a scholarship to the University of Redlands just outside of Los Angeles.
“I’m really excited to spend all summer getting ready for one thing,” DeVine said. “I am running Badger again and training with (conditioning coach) B.J. Guereca.”