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Sports Nutritionist Ellen Davis Excited For Journey At Gilbert

Davis to begin working with high school student-athletes on May 4

As a high school athlete, Ellen Davis constantly raised eyebrows, and that’s not hyperbole. She went by Ellen Ries back then when she put together one of the most decorated running careers in the history of Iowa high school athletics.

How fast could she run the 800 meters? As fast as she needed to in order to reach the finish line first. Seriously. She was that good. Her long stride, her focus, and her talent were equaled only by her competitive drive.

If she was in the race, the odds were good — pretty close to 100 percent, actually — that everyone else was battling for second. And every single one of those other runners knew it too.

Over her four years at North Linn High School, Davis won 13 state track titles and two state cross country crowns. She was a Drake Relays champion as well before embarking on a collegiate career at the University of Missouri.

And that’s where her story took a turn. In the short-term, it was for the worse. But as she looks back now at the big picture, she knows everything happened for a reason.

Those low moments? They made her into the person she is today, someone who dedicates her professional life to helping student-athletes learn the things she didn’t necessarily know as a 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old.

Davis was bitten by the injury bug over and over again during her early years at Missouri. An ankle injury just four weeks into her freshman year was just the tip of the iceberg. Over the course of three years, she sustained five stress fractures and no one could answer the most important question: Why?

“It was a hamster wheel of pain and sadness and a lot of fatigue,” Davis says now, thinking back to those early days at Missouri.

Davis went in search of her own answers and, thankfully, that led her in the direction of the dietetics program at Missouri. She learned about nutrition, about fueling her body, about how the food you put in your body is not only vital to performance, but also recovery.

It paid substantial dividends. By the time Davis exited Missouri, she had earned all-Big 12 honors and qualified for the 1,500 at the NCAA Championships.

“Part of me was a little frustrated because what could have been had I figured it out in the beginning, but the other end of the rope is that it happened for a reason,” Davis says. “I knew graduating from Mizzu that being a sports dietician would be my future.”

Welcome to Gilbert

Davis’s backstory is paramount to the present, as she gets set to embark on a new journey working with Gilbert High School’s student-athletes, their families, and our coaches over the next eight months. With the support of the Gilbert Athletic Boosters, Davis, who is a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, was contracted through the end of the calendar year.

“The Gilbert activities department is so excited to have Ellen Davis on board with us,” Gilbert Activities Director Ian Smith said. “Her experience and knowledge as a sports nutritionist will give our student-athletes another tool to be able to be at their best on the field and in the  classroom.”

Davis has spent the better part of the past 14 years working in the performance nutrition field. In July of 2022, she launched The Performance Collective with the focus on supporting student-athletes in the complexities of nutrition, recovery, and injury prevention. It’s a collaborative effort, as she partners with sports physicians, sports psychologists, mental performance specialists, and other healthcare professionals to treat the athlete as a whole.

“My goals are to enhance performance, recovery and injury prevention using nutrition,” Davis says. “But my primary goal at the end of the day is to support student-athletes as human beings, not just student-athletes. I want to support their physical, mental, and social well being with nutrition.”

This isn’t just a job to Davis. This is a passion. A calling. And she treats all of the individuals she works with as such.

“It’s impossible not to see myself in the eyes of the people I’m talking to,” she says. “What I love most about what I do are the people I meet and the long relationships I develop with the students, their families, and the communities.

“I like to see my athletes win, but it means more to me when they call me or send me a picture of their prom dress, or whatever is meaningful to them at that moment. That’s what I’ll remember forever.”

Davis brings her knowledge to Gilbert where she hopes to cultivate a positive culture that utilizes food as the secret weapon. She will have her initial meeting with student-athletes on May 4, and over the summer months she will meet with respective teams. Student-athletes will also have the opportunity to meet with her on an individual basis.

“I will personally be onsite for the large group meetings on a monthly basis,” Davis says. “We will focus on topics like fueling fundamentals: Why is nutrition important for performance recovery and injury prevention? We’ll talk about how to have a positive relationship with food, and we’ll talk about hydration.”

Davis says student-athletes will learn how the proper nutrition boosts the immunity system, and how it enhances the quality of sleep as well.

Parents will also have the opportunity to interact with Davis through Zoom meetings on a monthly basis. Those will occur the third Wednesday at noon each month, and Davis says all of those meetings will be recorded for those parents that are unable to attend. Davis will have a presentation for parents each month, and there will also be time for parents to ask questions.

Gilbert’s coaches will meet with Davis bi-monthly. She says a big focus with the coaches will center around Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-s), which is a syndrome of poor health and declining athletic performance that happens when athletes do not get enough fuel through food to support the energy demands of their daily lives and training.

“At least 60 percent of high school athletes are affected by RED-s,” Davis says. “It causes a lot of complications … that was what affected me (in college).”

She’ll work with the coaches on cultivating a positive fueling culture and how to promote a positive attitude with food and workouts, among other things.

In her initial meeting with parents on Wednesday, Davis stressed that she’s not the food police. Not now and not ever. But if she can help to give our student-athletes nutrition knowledge, she’s confident it will be one more piece in place to help them succeed.


Tigers take girls’ 4×800, Wadsley in boys’ 3,200, and middle school medley relays to Drake Relays

To hear Gilbert long distance coach Laura Kautman describe it, Charlie Bucket had an easier time securing his golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory than her girls’ 4×800-meter relay did in grabbing a hold of its precious spot in this week’s Drake Relays.

Let’s cut to the end for a quick moment: The quartet of Clare Stahr, Sophia Bleich, Keira Andersen, and Sarah Feddersen is in the star-studded event scheduled to hit the blue oval inside Drake Stadium in Des Moines Saturday morning at 10:25 a.m. But it wasn’t easy.

For starters, in an attempt to cut its time significantly, the group borderline pleaded with Ames High School for entry into a meet with some heavy hitters last Tuesday. The Tigers finally got the go-ahead and, boy, did they perform.

Stahr, Bleich, Andersen, and Feddersen turned in a blazing 9:37.22 at Ames to meet the blue standard and officially punch their ticket to Drake. They shaved nearly 13 seconds off their previous best and will enter Drake Stadium with the seventh-fastest time in the state regardless of class.

Are the girls surprised at how far they’ve come in such a short period this spring? Absolutely, and yet they all say their best is yet to come.

“For me personally, I’m super excited,” Bleich, a sophomore, said. “At the beginning of the season, if you would have told me that I’d be running at Drake, I would have been shocked. But I think we have a great team.”

“This was my high school goal, to qualify for the Drake Relays,” Stahr, a junior, said. “Seeing our hard work pay off this year with this great group of girls is just so cool to see. All of the hard work has come to fruition.”

Stahr went through pain — quite literally — to help the Tigers qualify. At the Ames meet, the lead-off runner had her heel stepped on by another competitor in the large pack early on and yet she still managed to keep Gilbert near the front while running most of her two laps with one shoe on and one shoe half-off. The back of her foot was bloody by the time she handed the baton to Bleich, but she did her job.

Bleich and Andersen, just a freshmen, turned in arguably their best races as well before Feddersen, a sophomore and first-year track and field participant, brought it home on the anchor.

“There’s a real drive between us,” Andersen said. “We want to push each other to be our best and run our fastest.”

Kautman says all four have been pleasant surprises this spring, but maybe none more than Feddersen, who has seamlessly cemented herself as the relay hammer. A competitive gymnast prior to the 2022-23 school year, she admits she didn’t really understand the significance of the Drake Relays until just recently.

“Coming (into the season) with no expectations and having never done track before, I didn’t even know how big of a deal Drake was,” Feddersen said as her relay mates chuckled around her. “But getting to watch our times drop and realizing it was actually achievable was really cool.”

Kautman recognizes Feddersen’s contributions as a first-year runner and says she’s quickly adapted herself to the competitive world of running.

“The part about Sarah I didn’t realize is she’s a fierce competitor,” Kautman said. “She’s toed the line with some of the state’s best and she’s raced right with them.

“In order to be an elite gymnast, I think you have to have the mental and physical pieces. Was she a surprise running wise? Absolutely, but when you see what she’d accomplished leading up to track, it’s not a surprise.”

Kautman speaks glowingly of all four of her runners. She knows that’s what it takes — four solid pieces — to compete at Drake.

And that’s exactly what Gilbert wants to do: compete at Drake. Yes, the girls are happy to be there amongst the best of the best. But when the race begins, just being happy to be there will no longer be good enough.

“We’re ready to compete at Drake,” Feddersen said.

Dubuque Hempstead enters Saturday’s 4×800 with the fastest time of 9:20.54, close to a 13-second gap over No. 2 seed Ankeny (9:33.31). The Nos. 2-7 seeds are separated by less than four seconds.

Wadsley Drake bound in 3,200

Gilbert senior William Wadsley admits it sheepishly — he was a scoreboard watcher.

In the days leading up to last Thursday’s Drake Relays cut-off, he checked the boys’ 3,200-meter leaderboard a couple times a day. Why? Because he was near that cut-off line for qualifying and to be known as a Drake Relays qualifier is something he really wanted.

“Two or three times a day, I would check it,” Wadsley said. “But I was just kind of leaving it up to God. Whatever he wants, that’s what’s going to happen.”

Fear not, William. You’re in.

Wadsley got the good news from Gilbert boys’ track and field coach Joel Franzen during a school assembly last Friday afternoon and to say he was excited would be an understatement.

“It definitely brought a smile to my face and joy flowed through my body,” Wadsley said.

Wadsley will be part of the field of 21 runners during Thursday’s distance carnival at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. The boys’ 3,200 is scheduled to hit the track at 5:52 p.m.

Fittingly enough, it was on the famed blue oval that Wadsley earned his spot among the best distance runners this state has to offer. At the Jim Duncan Relays on a cold and wet Saturday morning earlier this month, he turned in a career-best time of 9:33.27 and that was good enough to qualify. He beat his previous best time by a whopping 21 seconds.

And now he wants to complete the eight-lap race even faster.

“I had a goal going into this season that I wanted to get a 9:20 (plus), and with my qualifying time of 9:33, I think that’s totally achievable,” he said. “I’m really excited for a good time.”

Ford Washburn of Iowa City High has run the fastest 3,200 this season (9:00.73), followed by Pella’s Chase Lauman (9:15.30).

Middle School relays also headed to Drake

In addition to our high school athletes, the Gilbert Middle School track and field team will also be represented at this week’s Drake Relays.

Both middle school teams will take their 1,600 medley relay to Des Moines.

The girls’ medley — Sammy Johnson, Ella Andrews, Allie Grandgenett, Callie Hales, and alternate Emee Dani — will race at 5 p.m. on Friday.

The boys’ medley — Tayton Warg, Micah Leyva, Brandon Terry, Logan Bleich, and alternate Justin Sosnouski — will compete immediately following at 5:07 p.m. on Friday.

Only eight middle school teams across the state qualified for the girls’ and boys’ medley relay races. The Gilbert boys’ squad landed one of the coveted spots with a time of 4:12.20, while the girls’ group advanced with a clocking of 4:46.70.

Gilbert Community School District

Gilbert Community School District

103 Mathews Drive, Gilbert, Iowa 50105  |  (515) 232-3740