As they run the cross-country course together, mother and daughter each grip onto one end of a jump rope and tackle the 5K terrain along with the other runners.
The Inglemoor High duo runs the race farther back in the pack, putting in a solid effort the whole way. When they near the finish line, the crowd cheers and gives the Vikings an extra boost to complete the arduous race.
Freshman Verada Ellett can’t see out of her right eye and has a bit of vision in her left eye. Her mother, Mandy, joins Verada in the race, constantly communicating with her and leading the way around turns, over tree roots, through mud and whatever else they encounter on the course.
Inglemoor sophomore runner Lexie Ellett is impressed at what her sister does out on the course.
“When my friends tell me they can’t do stuff, I’m like, ‘Well, my sister can, and so you should be able to to,’” Lexie said before the Oct. 9 meet against Newport at St. Edward State Park.
Viking freshman harrier Izzy Urrutia said it’s incredible to see Verada run the 3.1-mile race.
“She’s on the same level even if she can’t see out of one eye,” Urrutia said. “She’s a really sweet person. She just works hard and I really wanna be kind of like her.”
Verada, 16, was born 13 weeks premature in Thailand and Mandy noted that doctors didn’t perform any surgeries at the time to prevent the visual impairment. Verada’s right retina is completely detached and her left retina is bent, Mandy said.
Mandy and her husband Matt adopted Verada when she was almost 3 while they were living in El Paso, Texas. They’ve lived in Kenmore for about a year and previously resided in Bothell, Latvia and Georgia. Matt is in the Army and is currently studying to get his PhD in Slavic linguistics at the University of Washington.
A volunteer assistant coach at Inglemoor, Mandy has been running since she was 12 and has encouraged her children to take up the sport as well.
On getting Verada into sports, Mandy noted: “I was like, ‘Well, I like to run,’ and running we can do. So she thought, ‘Well, I’m gonna try that.’”
“Running is super fast,” Verada said. “My goal is not to walk. To pass many people.”
Mandy said that doctors told the family that they need to be careful with Verada’s sports activities, therefore she can’t play sports that involve balls because she might get hit in the head and possibly completely detach her left retina.
Verada also participates in track and field, competing in the 100 and 400 runs and the long jump. She sometimes runs with a coach or independently on the inside lane, where she can see the difference between the track and the grass, Mandy said. When Verada nears the line to jump, someone will tell her it’s time to leap.
On the cross-country front, Verada enjoys running with her mom and loves it when people unleash cheers for them. Her best time was 36:20 at press time, and if she can break 35:00, the Viking will qualify for state in the para-ambulatory category.
It’s a special experience for Mandy as well, but she said with a laugh that it gets frustrating at times when Verada gets tired and ornery with mom.
“She’s learned to manage it so well. Sometimes I don’t realize how scary that might actually be,” said Mandy, who has tried to mimic Verada’s vision when she’s running.
Mandy feels that it’s amazing for Verada, who favors her health and cooking classes at Inglemoor, to be part of the Viking cross-country scene. Verada’s teammates run with her at practice and she’s part of the team camaraderie.
“Those kids, it just almost makes me cry. It’s so sweet, they’re all very accepting and awesome,” Mandy said.