Passing up on Nebraska, Oregon, and Indiana as places to live and attend university is one thing.
That's exactly what Georgia Ellenwood decided to do.
The 17-year-old track and field phenom from Langley Secondary passed on the sunny climes of Honolulu, opting instead for Madison, Wisconsin, where the temperature plummeted to a bone-numbing minus 17Â§C on Wednesday.
The longtime member of the Langley Mustangs track and field club has accepted a full-ride scholarship offer with the University of Wisconsin, starting in 2013/14.
She officially became a Wisconsin Badger yesterday (Feb. 6), which was the NCAA official signing day.
Ellenwood fielded several scholarship offers over the summer and fall of 2012, but eventually narrowed her choice to five schools: Wisconsin, University of Nebraska, University of Oregon, University of Hawaii and Indiana University.
She was invited on official visits to see each school, and came away feeling Wisconsin was the best situation for her.
"It was a difficult decision because they all had so much to offer and the atmosphere on each campus was incredible," Ellenwood said. "I chose Wisconsin for some key reasons. I established a connection with coach Nate Davis when he came to our home to recruit me, and when we talked several times on the phone after that. When we went to Madison to visit with him and the team, that feeling grew stronger."
Wisconsin was also attractive to Ellenwood because of the success of its NCAA Div. 1 athletic program and its reputation as a top-ranked academic school.
Wisconsin swept the top three spots in the heptathlon at the Big 10 championships in 2012, and all three of its female athletes were in the top 20 in the NCAA last year and qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials, a feat no other NCAA school was able to accomplish.
"Wisconsin is clearly the dominant program in the NCAA right now in combined events [heptathlon] which is my area of track and field," Ellenwood said.
But the real hook for Ellenwood came during her tour of the school campus.
"The atmosphere reflected off my personality and showed I could thrive in a school like that," Ellenwood said.
Davis already established contact with Athletics Canada and her Mustangs coaches in Langley, and Ellenwood will return to compete for Canada and B.C. in international and national competitions in the summers during her career at Wisconsin.
"He [Davis] already showed that he was making big effort to recruit me and I liked the feeling with that," Ellenwood said. "I instantly clicked with him as a coach and as a person."
Ellenwood's specialty is heptathlon, which is comprised of seven events - the 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin throw, and 800m - held over two days.
She is currently the top ranked junior heptathlete in Canada.
Davis said Ellenwood has all the pieces in place to excel.
"Georgia is a very talented athlete, but she is also a very good student who comes from a very supportive and positive family," he said. "Georgia has great potential in the heptathlon and I look forward to helping her continue to improve so that she can both represent the University of Wisconsin at our championship events, and Canada internationally."
Immediately after signing, Ellenwood flew to Phoenix AZ, where she will be participating in the Canadian Olympic Development Camp for Rio 2016.
Her goal for this summer is to qualify for Canada's junior national team and compete at the junior Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru in August.
Judging from her resume, Ellenwood has a good shot at making the team.
Last March, Ellenwood was named the High School Female Athlete of the Year at Sport BC's 46th Annual Athlete of the Year Awards.
And this past August at the 2012 Legion Canadian Youth Track and Field Championships Ellenwood garnered four medals for Team BC with a gold in long jump (5.78 metres), a silver in the 200m dash (25 seconds) and bronze medals in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.
She was competing in the youth category (U18) at the national event, held at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown.
Ellenwood missed the 2012 B.C. high school track and field championships with a foot injury but as a Grade 10 the year before, she dominated the provincial meet.She was named the top female athlete, winning gold medals in the the 100-metre hurdles, high jump, and long jump.
Ellenwood looks forward to making a return trip to the B.C. meet as her high school career turns towards its stretch drive.
"I always put pressure on myself," she said. "I'm more excited than anything. I'm not sure what events I am doing in provincials. I'm more excited than nervous. It's going to be a challenge."
Ellenwood is a multi-talented athlete. A forward, she is also a strong soccer player and actually weighed her options, scholarship-wise between the two sports.
"It was between track and soccer for the longest time," she said. "But I thought a Div. 1 school, full-ride scholarship in track would be the thing for me."
An honour roll student, Ellenwood hasn't decided on a major yet but is leaning towards psychology.
She'll be away from home for the first time in her life, which is somewhat daunting.
"My family, I'm going to miss seeing them every day," Ellenwood said. "To be on my own for a while will be a learning experience. I'm excited but I'm also nervous because I have to be independent. It's going to be a huge experience."
She'll be following her older brother Stuart, 19, into the university ranks. Stuart is a runner with Simon Fraser University, specializing in the 400m and 800m.
"When I was younger, my older brother got into it [track]," she recalled. "It looked like so much fun. Once I tried it, I got addicted. This is what I want to do with my life."
Ellenwood grew as an athlete under the tutelage of her Langley Mustangs coaches over the past seven years.
"I am so thankful to my coaches Kim Chapdelaine and Dwayne Lotnick for everything they have done for me over such a long time," she said.
Chapdelaine, who has coached Ellenwood over the past five years, is happy to see her move on to a reputable program like Wisconsin.
"Georgia is an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and dedicated athlete," he said. "Her goal from the beginning has been to represent Canada and sign at a prestigious NCAA university. Georgia is such a highly motivated athlete, and Wisconsin is very fortunate to sign her to their school. I am proud of her and look forward to supporting her on her new journey."
Mustangs president Brent Dolfo described Ellenwood as a "phenomenal talent."
"Her dominant performances as a high school athlete rank right up there with former Mustangs Debbie Brill and Leah Pells, who both competed for Canada in multiple Olympic Games," Dolfo said.
She will start at UW in September.
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