Stephan Scott-Ellis is as cool as they come.
The 21-year-old triple-jump specialist has already claimed the indoor meet record in the long jump, but has his sights set higher still.
“I know I can jump further,” Scott-Ellis said.
Lofty goals are an inherent part of what keeps the junior motivated, but what inspires the 6-foot-7-inch Scott-Ellis more than anything is family. Since coming to Washington State University, he’s found an abundance of kin here, especially within his group of fellow jumpers.
“I like the family aspect our team has,” Scott-Ellis said. “We’re real close, and I like that a lot.”
Scott-Ellis’ success in athletics can be attributed to his upbringing. His stepfather, Kevin Ellis, now a Chief Operations Officer for the marines stationed overseas in Afghanistan, taught values of discipline in life and sports. Scott-Ellis says growing up in a military family helped him stay focused on athletics and school.
“I liked growing up in a military family because you move around a lot, meet a lot of people, see a lot of faces,” Scott-Ellis said. “I just didn’t get to do things other kids got to do. All I really had was sports.”
Track wasn’t Scott-Ellis’ sport of choice growing up. Instead, he grew up surrounded by basketball. His uncle, Kyle Ellis, played basketball at Cal Poly, while his father, Kevin Ellis, and his grandfather, Joe Ellis, both played basketball at the University of San Francisco. Scott-Ellis’ grandfather continued to play basketball professionally for eight years with the Golden State Warriors.
It was only fitting that Scott-Ellis developed a passion for hoops before track. “[Basketball] was the only sport I played up until high school,” he said.
However, track soon replaced the hardwood of the basketball arena for Scott-Ellis, who started jumping in 9th grade for Curtis High School in his native town of Tacoma. Because his heart still resided in basketball, Scott-Ellis said, at first track was an afterthought.
“I just did it for fun,” he said. “I didn’t think anything of it, and still focused on basketball.”
Scott-Ellis soon realized he could compete with the best athletes in the high school ranks, winning the league, district and state 4A triple-jump titles in 2008.
“After that it just kind of took off,” Scott-Ellis said of his pursuit of the sport.
After some initial heckling, even his basketball-laden family came around on Scott-Ellis’ decision to pursue track. “They fully support me in everything I do,” said Scott-Ellis. “It’s good to have.”
It’s that kind of support Scott-Ellis cherishes, especially because he never got that kind of support from his real father. Scott-Ellis says the fact that his biological father was not around for his childhood adds extra motivation for him to succeed in athletics.
“That’s one of my motivations. Just to do really well and prove to him that he missed out on something,” Scott-Ellis said. “It’s something that no one really knows, but it’s always kind of on my mind.”
For now, Scott-Ellis has close friends and family to keep him focused on achieving his goals of one day competing in the Olympics. “I think family’s really important. At the end of the day, that’s really all you got.”
Scott-Ellis’ family, friends, and teammates will continue to support him this season as he strives to jump closer to such lofty goals.
“I feel better, I feel stronger, and I feel like my techniques better,” Scott-Ellis said. “Hopefully good things will come.”