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JBLM athlete still ‘showing everybody what she can do’

Born premature, doctors thought she might not walk

Northwest Guardian

Published: 02:19PM August 16th, 2012
JBLM athlete still ‘showing everybody what she can do’

Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

“When I started to think that I can run, I just started doing it. It was really amazing how it happened,” said Bre’Anna Ellis, who is now a member of her high school track team and the JBLM youth track team.

Bre’Anna Ellis has nothing to say to those who tell her she can’t do something. The teenager shows them she can. “I push myself until I know I can do it to prove to them I can do it,” Ellis said.

Looking at the 5-foot-1, 15-year-old Joint Base Lewis-McChord track and field team standout, one would never know what a miracle it is she is even able to walk, let alone compete in sprints.

Born premature at 23 weeks and weighing less than one pound, Ellis fought for her life in her first few months. Her lungs and intestines weren’t fully developed and she also had a problem with her heart. After multiple surgeries Ellis spent nearly six months in the hospital, but the problems didn’t end when she was released.

For about a year Ellis wore a heart monitor that alerted her parents when she stopped breathing. While her heart improved, she was still in leg braces because her bones weren’t strong enough to support her.

“She kept crawling and we wondered why she wouldn’t walk,” Bre’Anna’s father, Chris Ellis said. “They told us she might not be able to walk. They said if she walks normal it will be a miracle because ... she won’t be able to do activities as other people.”

Her parents gave Bre’Anna the middle name “Miracle,” and she’s often demonstrated the truth in it. As a toddler she was determined not to wear her leg braces and always kicked them off. She began to walk on her toes and then tried to run, falling every time. When she was in elementary school she started to run, but her left knee continuously popped out of its socket. Bre’Anna’s father encouraged her to continue her strength training and she stuck with it.

Last year Bre’Anna was involved with both her high school and the JBLM Youth Track and Field team. “That’s when she started showing everybody what she can do,” Chris said. “It surprised her and it surprised me, too. Big time.”

Bre’Anna and seven other members of the JBLM Youth Track and Field team competed in the USATF Regional Qualifier track meet in Bend, Ore., July 5 through 8. Bre’Anna took first in the 800 meters (2 minutes, 31.85 seconds) and third in the 400 meters (1:00.82), qualifying for the USATF National Junior Olympics in Baltimore in both events.

Last year with North Thurston High School Bre’Anna competed in the district tournament as a freshman.

Bre’Anna has seen photographs but doesn’t remember the days she had to wear leg braces.

“When I started to think that I can run, I just started doing it,” the budding track star said. “It was really amazing how it happened.”

Bre’Anna’s bedpost is decorated with the medals she earned rapidly. She has spent the summer training for the next track season, running at Cowan Stadium on Lewis Main while her dad works as an airfield services manager at Gray Army Airfield.

During the 2012 Summer Olympics that ended Sunday, Bre’Anna was glued to the television to watch Allyson Felix win three gold medals. She likes to copy everything Felix does to improve as a runner, and hopes one day to be able to compete on the Olympic stage. For those who doubt, Bre’Anna will gladly accept the challenge.