Ella Verello loved playing soccer.
Now a senior at Nazareth Academy High School, Verello entered the school hoping to contribute to the Pandas soccer team, and right from the start she turned heads.
But she wanted to get even better, so the defender decided to start running indoor and outdoor track to get in better running shape.
It worked very well. She got in better shape. And then she decided to give up her first true love, soccer, and focus on running in all three seasons.
“At Nazareth you can only play one sport (per season), and I still played for Philly Soccer Club, so I was still playing soccer,” said Verello, who lives in Parkwood. “I would have done both, but when I had to pick one, I knew I was better at running so I stopped playing soccer.
“It was really hard leaving. I loved playing soccer and loved the team. But when I decided to run for the leadership team in student council and I got president, and I knew I wasn’t going to play soccer in college, so I decided to stop playing (soccer), and focus on school work and running.”
“It was kind of hard to tell the team and my coach (Dan Bradley), but I had a great relationship with the coach, he was very supportive of me. He knew that if I was going to college, I would be doing track. I’m still really close with the team, I talk to them a lot.”
On top of running cross country, Verello runs in indoor and outdoor track. She started running when she was in seventh grade, and ever since she started competing, she poured everything she has into it.
“I kind of motivate myself because I knew I wanted to run in college,” said Verello, who runs the one mile, the two mile and the five-kilometer race in cross country. “Ever since I started running, I just loved it. I love the people who do cross country and track. I love the coaches, I love the team and I feel very accomplished after running.”
Verello has been working hard since she got to Nazareth, but she got in extra work during the lockdown in 2020. While she wasn’t able to run with her teammates at Nazareth, she had plenty of time to hit the road and work on her times.
Instead of staying home and watching Netflix, she hit the track hard and saw improvement during the pandemic.
“The only time I didn’t get a season was during COVID,” Verello said. “I ran myself. That was really hard, I missed racing and missed my team, but it pushed me to achieve more goals. I ran anywhere I could.
“I ran around the neighborhood, I went to local tracks. I ran almost every day. I was doing virtual school. During COVID, every schedule was crazy, so we had more time. The days weren’t as long as normal school days. Everyone on the team was doing it. It wasn’t the same as running with your team, but it was still good to get in work.”
All the work Verello put in during her career is paying off handsomely. She’s one of the top distance runners in the area,
In the fall she was First-Team All-Catholic Academies, and qualified for the state cross country meet.
She also enjoyed a strong winter season and is now in the midst of another great spring season.
This won’t be the last of her running.
She recently accepted a scholarship to La Salle University, where she’ll continue her running career. It wasn’t a very difficult decision.
“La Salle, when I visited, I felt like I was at home,” Verello said. “It reminds me of Nazareth. It’s like a big family. I also got into honor’s program. It’s a five-year master’s program And they have amazing coaches and kids. I knew I had to look into the school. I’m very excited.”
Verello recently signed with the Explorers, and she’s excited to get down to business, both in school and on the track.
“I’m very excited, I’m majoring in speech language pathology,” said Verello, an honor student. “It’s good for kids, but also help people of all ages. I’m really interested in it and I love science.”
She’s also going to La Salle with a stellar resume.
A member of student council since she was a freshman, this year she’s serving as the class president. She’s on the Naz-A-Thon committee; is a presidential ambassador; in Panda Pals, which pairs younger students who need help in just about anything with upperclassmen; a member of the cancer awareness club; and part of Panda Stand Up, which started after the stabbing death of Nazareth grad Morgan McCaffery.
“That’s a club that helps with domestic violence,” Verello said. “We do it because of Morgan. It means a lot to all of us, she was in the sisterhood. We just want to make peace and want everyone to be safe and happy.”
She’s excited about the future, but more than happy about her present.
“Nazareth has been great, I love it,” Verello said. “I’m really happy I got involved in everything. The school means a lot to me. All the sports, the coaches, everything. It’s a great place.”