She may have some interesting stories to tell her grandchildren about the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
Like many other people her age, Emma Elwell is dealing with the disruption of normal life by engaging in virtual schooling and home-based workouts. But the Boyertown senior has another perspective on the situation: That of an employee of Walmart, a business classified as “essential” in this time of social distancing and stay-at-home requirements.
“I get thanked a lot for serving. It’s crazy,” Elwell said of the “hero” status accorded her and others — a category headed by medical professionals and first responders that includes retail store workers.
In that capacity, Emma gets a close-up look at how the consumer public is responding to the health-mandated requirements and restrictions placed by the government on retail businesses.
“It’s mostly pretty good,” she said. “But you can get someone who doesn’t follow the rules or the medical conditions, someone else complains about that and a fight breaks out. It can be a little awkward.”
It’s nonetheless a meaningful contribution to a society dealing with the closure of schools, restaurants and bars, many stores and personal-service businesses, among others.
It also helps Elwell fill time left empty by the loss of her last high-school athletic season to the pandemic.
The holder of no less than 12 school records in winter and spring track, Elwell was primed for a big final go-round on the track. Coming off an indoor season that saw her top her own standards in all but two of eight events and qualify for nationals, she was looking to enhance her standing as the school’s fastest sprinter and add to her medal collection from her junior season.
“This spring was supposed to be awesome,” Elwell said. “We had crazy 4×100 and 4×200 relays. We were excited.”
Her 2019 spring season was no less awesome. Elwell placed second in the 100 (12.27) and third in the 200 (25.54) at the Pioneer Athletic Conference Championships, and she was eighth in both AAA races at the District 1 meet.
Elwell came into outdoor track season off a strong showing in the Pa. Track and Field Coaches Association (PTFCA) meet March 1 at Penn State University. She placed sixth in the 200 (25.35) and seventh in the 60 (7.86) while helping Boyertown’s 4×200 relay (Renee Simmonds, Lillian Mauger, Alona Hopkins) scored a fourth in 1:45.50 which qualified them for the New Balance Indoor Nationals. But the event slated for March 13-15 in New York fell victim to the pandemic.
“It’s really hard to cope with,” she added. “It was all taken away. We realized bigger things were within reach.
“I was focusing on the sprints. I’d like to be good in the 200. In the 65, I’d like to drop my time.”
All was not lost for Elwell’s senior year of sports: she was the starting right back of the PIAA Class 4A champion Boyertown girls’ soccer team, earning Mercury All-Area second team selection after the forward converted to defense and added a seasoned and dynamic presence on the Bears’ right side.
Elwell will be in position to pursue more big things when her time at Boyertown is finished. She will be heading to Millersville University in the fall with the unique status of being a three-sport athlete. In addition to running winter and spring track, Emma will be part of the Marauder women’s soccer program.
“Millersville plays a back-and-winger shift,” she explained. “I was used to getting stuck anywhere.”
After competing in three sports in high school, Elwell doesn’t see that routine being a challenge at the collegiate level.
“I focus on nutrition, sleep and hydration. That’s important,” she said.
At Millersville, Emma will be reunited with former Boyertown teammate Aurora Conrad. Like Elwell, Conrad was a sprinter who medalled at the PAC’s 2019 meet — she was eighth in the 100 and 200 — and is currently finishing up her freshman year at Millersville.
“We’re close,” Elwell noted. “It was fun to run track with her. She’s one of my best friends.”
Elwell will be pursuing studies in early childhood education at Millersville. She had previously done a student-teaching gig with a class of first-graders and enjoyed the experience.