Versatile runner leaves unique legacy with Quaker Valley track program

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Sunday, June 9, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Ellie Cain recently wrapped up a distinguished four-year career in the Quaker Valley track and field program.

A senior team leader in 2024, Cain amassed 14 WPIAL and six PIAA medals with the Quakers and was an important member of the three district championship squads at QV since 2022.

“I was so proud of our team when we won our third WPIAL title this year. It was very exciting,” Cain said. “We went against some very talented teams, so I think our win showed all of the hard work that everyone put in this season at practice and the meets.”

Now, it’s off to the Show Me State for the 5-foot-4 Cain, who will continue her track career at Washington University in St. Louis, where she will study in a STEM-related field.

A National Honor Society member with a 4.46 GPA, Cain also looked into attending Emory and William & Mary.

“Although I enjoyed my visits to all of these schools, when I went to Wash U, the track and field team was especially welcoming,” she said. “Another big incentive for why I chose Wash U was their academic and athletic success.”

Wash U is a member of the NCAA Division III University Athletic Association along with Brandeis, Carnegie Mellon, Case Western, Chicago, Emory and NYU.

The top-ranked women’s track and field team at Wash U won its second NCAA outdoor championship in 2024. The Bears finished ahead the University of Wisconsin-La Crose and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the final team standings.

Cain’s versatility in running events certainly will be helpful in her career at Wash U. Her main events this spring were the 800-meter, 1,600 1,600 relay and 3,200 relay. She also competed in the 200, 400 and 400 relay.

“I would have to say my favorite is the 800,” she said.

The 18-year-old Cain was a WPIAL champion in the 800 as a sophomore and in three other events in her career, as a 1,600 relayer in her freshman season and as a 3,200 relayer as a sophomore and junior.

She was a member of the outdoor track and cross country programs at QV for four years and the indoor track program for three. She also was on the girls swim team for one season.

“I cannot put into words what Ellie has meant to our program,” said Jared Jones, the Quakers’ track and field coach. “She was a freshman during my first year as a head coach and has done anything asked of her over her four years.

“Ellie is an extremely gifted athlete with one of the widest ability ranges I have ever seen. She can run a competitive time from the longest track distance (3,200) to the shortest (100). In fact, Ellie has been our fastest 800 and 1,600 runner the last three seasons. But she has also been one of our fastest sprinters, as well. Unfortunately, due to a four-event maximum, and her love for mid-distance running, she never fully pursued all of her options.”

Quaker Valley’s track and field program maintained its elite status this year with five WPIAL individual championship performances and 26 medalists, including 12 on the girls team. All six relay squads were medalists.

The girls 1,600 relay team — juniors Vanessa Pickett and Cecilia Montagnese, sophomore Emma Currier and Cain — finished fourth in the WPIAL Class 2A competition.

“The girls all hit season-best marks and combined for the state qualifying standard mark,” Jones said. “It was impressive what they were able to do.”

The girls 3,200 relay team, consisting of Montagnese, senior Kate Hines, junior Emily Bablak and Cain, zeroed in on fifth place at WPIALs.

“For a relay to be successful, every member has to contribute, and I think that’s what our relays did,” said Cain, who finished fourth individually in the 800.

Both Quaker Valley squads won WPIAL Class 2A titles in the team championships May 15-16 at Peters Township. The QV girls defeated Fort Cherry, Knoch and Shenango in the finals to improve to 15-0.

The QV girls rank third all-time in WPIAL championships having won crowns in 1999, 2000, ‘01, ‘02, ‘04, ‘06, ‘07, ‘22, ‘23 and ‘24.

The Quakers grabbed an early lead at this year’s WPIAL finals by taking first place in the 3,200-meter relay thanks to Montagnese, freshman Maggie Doz, Hines and Cain.

“It was a group effort, but what really got us going was winning the 3,200-meter relay,” Jones said.

At the PIAA championships May 24-25 at Shippensburg, QV’s girls 400-meter relay turned in a medal-winning seventh-place performance.

Pickett, Karto, sophomore Zora Washington and Cain ran for the Quakers.

“Ellie competed on our 4-by-100 relay team for only the second time in her career,” Jones said. “The team set a season-best mark of 49.28, which is third all-time at Quaker Valley. When presented with moving on to a relay that she had only ever competed in once, Ellie did not hesitate in accepting the offer.

“Most athletes see track as an individual sport. I try to change that mindset as there is an important team component to track and field. Ellie’s willingness to be flexible and put the best interests of her team and teammates above her own personal interests are extremely rare. Our team will truly miss her.”

Cain also advanced to the state meet in the 800, 1,600 relay and as a 3,200 relay alternate.

“I think Wash U is the perfect fit for Ellie,” Jones said. “I think their program will give Ellie the opportunity to be successful in every aspect of her life. I am excited to follow her career as a fan.”

Without a doubt, Cain will be missed sorely at Quaker Valley. But she, undoubtedly, also will miss competing for the Quakers.

“I have so many happy memories from my high school career, and they will always be something I cherish,” Cain said. “I honestly couldn’t have asked for better coaches, and I owe them so much credit to my successes. I’m very lucky I was able to be part of such an amazing program and can’t wait to see the team’s future successes.

“Individually, my favorite memory was when I won the 800 at WPIALs my sophomore year. My favorite as a team was when we won WPIALs for the first time. It was such an amazing experience. I also have great memories of my 4-by-800 relay team.”

Another thing Cain will miss will be having her younger brother Kieran at practice with her. Kieran specializes in the 400 and 800 on the QV boys team and served as an alternate in all three relays at the PIAA championships.

“I was very glad to have Kieran be a part of the high school team,” Ellie said, “especially for my senior year. He is a hard worker and I expect big things from him in the future.”

The younger sibling, who also plays hockey “almost year-round,” talked about his first year in the QV track and field program.

“My freshman season was pretty good,” he said, “although I wish I did a little better and I wish I got to run at states. I really trust and like the coaching staff, and I’m excited for the future with this team.

“I didn’t get to run much with Ellie aside from workouts where I noticed she always worked hard. I saw more of her actual races and preparation for them. She was always prioritizing sleep and had several exercises she liked to do before meet days. On meet days, she was usually focused and often cheered on teammates.”

Kieran Cain took first place with a 2:08.45 time in the mixed 800-meter run May 29 at the PA Track Festival hosted by Pine-Richland.

Ellie Cain placed third in 2:23.84.

“We competed just for fun, nothing serious,” she said.

It quickly became apparent how much the younger brother admired the pride and determination of the older sister.

“Ellie always wants to do better and is rarely happy with her times,” he said, “but she was always there at the end of my races and other teammate’s races to tell them they did a good job.

“Ellie has developed into a great person and I’m excited to see how she runs in college.”

As are the national champion Wash U track and field coaches.

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