North Hills senior adds cross country to 3-sport resume, gives team boost

Saturday, September 23, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Ella Demoise’s plate was already pretty full heading into her senior year of high school. But she was willing to make a little space, and the North Hills cross country program sure is happy about that.

Demoise, who has starred for the Indians in the spring track and field seasons, decided to join the school’s budding girls cross country team this fall, adding an accomplished runner to a group that, a year ago, was unable to score at WPIAL meets due to a lack of participation.

“Having her has been phenomenal for us from a coaching perspective,” said Wade Endress, who is in his second season leading the cross country program, growing female participation from four to 14 in a year. “It was hard to convince girls when you show up at meets and other teams see their team results, and ours weren’t there. But we all had a really good experience with each other last year, and word started to spread pretty quick.”

For Demoise, the chance to participate with other girls in a team sport was a welcomed addition for the fall, a season which is initially occupied by another sport: golf.

She is the lone female golfer at North Hills, and therefore competes on the boys team during matches throughout the year.

“Yeah, I play with the boys,” said Demoise, who began golfing with her parents when she was 5 years old and does have the ability to participate in WPIAL qualifiers against other girls in an individual competition. “It’s really fun and I really enjoy it. But it’s nice to have cross country too, where it’s a team of girls who support each other. I love both of them and it’s really nice to do both this year.”

Endress was all for the variety.

“It’s a very nontraditional senior year of running for her,” he said. “It’s sort of a backwards way to do it. But she was our top two-mile runner in the spring for us, so the talent was there.

“With the multi-sport stuff, these kids are as involved as they’ve ever been in their young lives, so let’s do it all. If you can communicate with me appropriately, then let’s make it all work.”

And North Hills has benefitted. In a sport ultimately about speed, Demoise has learned how to slow down. After a late arrival to the team due to golf, she burst out of the gates in her first race, but sharply fell off due to the overexertion. Since then, Demoise has controlled her pace and has been North Hills’ top female finisher at three meets while still learning the ropes of cross country running.

“She’s great,” Endress said. “It’s unique to her. Not every athlete or every student can pull off what she’s doing.”

Where Demoise perhaps excels most is in the classroom. A National Merit semifinalist, Demoise has plans to apply and enroll in a local college and be a pre-med major with a focus on neuroscience. She has hopes to give back to others when she’s older, a desire that was sparked during the covid-19 pandemic.

“I did this research project at my high school on the impact of extracurriculars on mental health, which is pretty fitting to who I am,” she said. “After the pandemic, I felt so involved with track, and that was helping my mental health. I did a little survey of the school, and the results showed how severe depression is at our school, and also how much being involved with any extracurricular — especially physically active ones — helps. And so, I wanted to learn more about the intersection of that.”

A care for others’ wellbeing is something that Endress spotted right away with Demoise.

“She’s extremely considerate of everyone she comes in contact with,” he said. “It’s first nature for her to consider the person next to her as much as it is examining herself. A microcosm of that is what we deal with day to day, going to practice or meets.

“She’s the definition of ‘your sister’s keeper.’ Despite being a first-year member of our team, she immediately became a captain. That speaks volumes to who she is and all the people she considers throughout life.”

Between fall and spring running, her time on the golf course, a full school workload that includes AP classes, and even a musical flair as a clarinet player with the school’s band, balancing it all is certainly a challenge.

“There’s not many hours left in the day after all of that,” she jokes. “Sometimes you just have to relax and not take things too seriously. And learning how to manage your time is really important. But for cross country and track, it’s all my friends with me. So it’s my social time as well as my sports time.”

And that current sports time has Demoise excited. North Hills is finally able to compete, as a girls team, against the rest of the WPIAL. Bars are being raised, and standards are being set.

“We finally have a team that can show North Hills pride and be awesome as a team,” she said. “I’m really excited about that.”

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