Ella Mednick

School: William Tennent

Basketball, Unified Track



Favorite athlete: Paige Bueckers

Favorite team:  Philadelphia 76ers

Favorite memory of competing in sports: Our final game this season when we beat Plymouth Whitemarsh, which in the last eight years had not been done by our school. 

Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: I would get really bad leg cramps and fall to the ground unexpectedly, so my trainer would drag me to the side of the court and tilt my head back and feed me mustard, which is my least favorite food in the world, so everyone would just watch as I begged and fought her not to make me do it. 

Music on playlist:  Our bus rides were filled with anything from Kanye to Rihanna, but we left room for artists like Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift, which really rounded our energy pregame. 

Future plans: I am attending University of Pittsburgh on the path of becoming a Physician's Assistant.  

Words to live by: “It is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight inside the dog.” I just like that you don't need to be the biggest or most intelligent person in a task, you just have to want it the most.

One goal before turning 30: To have a career in health care where I am helping serve others and giving back to a community I call home. 

One thing people don’t know about me: In my career as a high school athlete, I have played 5 different sports, and enjoyed trying each of them at different competitive levels, but the only one I played all four seasons, and on varsity, was basketball. 


Some teens dealing with personal adversity may be prone to act out and engage in self-destructive behaviors. Grades slip and they withdraw from extracurricular activities, sports included.

William Tennent senior Ella Mednick chose another path when her home life grew increasingly difficult.

The school environment became her salvation, as she challenged herself with several sports – in addition to her primary game of basketball – and in the classroom.

“I always loved school,” said Mednick, who took almost all AP and honors classes. “School was always my safe place and something I liked. Most kids would rather be home. Since I would rather not be home, I threw myself into my schooling and my athletics.”

The captain of the girls’ basketball team is now heading to the University of Pittsburgh with the goal of becoming a physician’s assistant.

“It is a happy ending to a tough story,” said John Creighton, the athletic director. “This is a young lady who took AP courses and who is going the University of Pittsburgh. She has everything in front of her, and had to go through some things that you don’t wish on anyone.”

While girls’ basketball coach Laura Whitney will remember Mednick for smiling through the most difficult times, she knows it wasn’t easy for her to put on a brave face.

“The last two years have been tough on her,” said Whitney. “She has had to deal with some personal stuff off the court. As a coach, you always hope you can leave a lasting impression and be a role model for them. But, the way she has handled herself with those things that were going on and the way she carried herself, it was just so admirable. She taught me more the last two years, just with the strength that she had and the resiliency.”

Home Away from Home

In understandable moments of weakness, Mednick would catch her breath and regroup in the athletic office with Creighton and his secretary, Kim Slaninko, providing support and tissues.

“Ella found her way into the office during her junior year at time when she was struggling at home,” said Creighton. “This was her safe space to get that all out. When she did leave the office, she was putting back on that mask of nothing being wrong because she got it all out while she was in our office.

“The tough thing about being a teenager is being a teenager. You’re looking around and seeing if people are judging you. It becomes, ‘I need to find my way. I need to find my inner circle of friends. I need to find my confidence and my self-esteem.’ This was a place for her to get rid of some of that frustration and let it all out, and have people just be listeners without questioning any of it. This was her place.”

A native of Northeast Philadelphia, Creighton had worked in the Philadelphia School District, and he was sensitive to students bringing more baggage to school than their backpacks.

“You have this vision that the suburbs are all rainbows and unicorns,” he said. “There are kids here who are still struggling and who still need your help. It just happens to be masked a little bit differently.”

For Mednick there was definitely a lot of storm before the calm.

She just kept it out of the public eye.

“I went through a period where - from the stress of everything happening at home - I was having panic attacks,” said Mednick. “Miss Kim, who is Mr. Creighton’s secretary, would literally do everything she could to get my mind off of whatever I was thinking about. She would talk me through everything. She would show me what a mother is. I don’t know if she even has any kids, but I consider myself one of hers.”

Feeling Unified

Creighton felt that Mednick would get as much out of a program called Unified Track as the students with special challenges that she would be helping.

Said Creighton: “When she was going through some of these things, it was, like, ‘let’s make sure you are as involved in as much as possible – activities, athletics – so your mind doesn’t go astray with having to deal with everything else you have to deal with as a 17-year-old teenager.’”

He wasn’t wrong. Unified Track, run by boys’ basketball coach Robert Mulville, has had a healing effect.

“I feel like I have learned so much from that experience,” said Mednick, who is also involved in a similar program, Athletes Helping Athletes, as well as student government and Athletic Council. “It is very rewarding for yourself, but to also see other kids you wouldn’t see normally in honors classes and stuff like that. You get to meet new people and still get exercise in.

“Winning isn’t the only goal. They are happy to be there.”

From Creighton’s perspective, mission accomplished.

“Ella is a wonderful young lady,” said Creighton. “She is the type of student-athlete that makes everyone around her better. Seeing her mature in a way where she brings everything positive to what it means to be a student-athlete, it was definitely something that I wanted to make sure that she at least tried. If she didn’t like it, she didn’t have to do it. I think it was a perfect situation.”

Looking back to a time where she felt lost, Mednick believes that Unified Track helped her to find herself.

“I quit softball halfway through my sophomore year,” she recalled. “Mr. Creighton, who had been helping me with all my family stuff, said that he thought Unified Track would be really good for me. I did it my junior and senior year. Now, I’m hoping to continue doing that in college.”

As for Mulville, he believes the program has been enriched by Mednick’s presence. He called her overall one of the best students a teacher could ask for, and she is the type of person who makes it a joy to coach.”

He added: “Ella has been a leader on the Unified Track team with her ability to be patient and empathetic with her teammates, but also setting a great example as a competitor. 

“When she is out on the track, she is able to get the best out of her teammates through her encouragement and energy. Ella makes sure to greet her teammates before practice and see how they are doing and she has a unique ability to make everyone feel involved. She gets people up and moving when they are tired and makes sure everyone is cheering on their teammates during their events.”

A Night to Remember

When Senior Night came around, Creighton and Slaninko gladly and proudly served as Mednick’s escorts.

“I don’t have any daughters, I have two sons,” said Creighton. “It really did feel like, on that night, Kim and I were walking out someone who became our daughter in our office the last two years for her Senior Night. I took it as something I would cherish for a very long time.

“My kids are 7 and 5, so I have a long time to go before they have their Senior Nights.”

He is not alone.

“I always went to Mr. Creighton and (Slaninko),” said Mednick. “They were a mom and dad to me on their own. They always had their office open for me to eat lunch in.”

While Creighton and Slaninko were doing the honors, Mednick’s grandfather, Louis Corisideo, is regarded as an unsung hero.

“I would describe him as my moral compass,” said Mednick. “He is the most levelheaded in my family and was the only blood family I could count on to be in the stands of every game.

“He would always tell me what I did right, what I needed to work on, and how I can improve by the next game. He supports every choice I make, in sports and in life in general, and knows me better than anyone else in my family.”

Creighton credited her grandfather as well.

“He was doing as much as he could,” the Tennent AD said. “There is no ill will toward anyone, but Ella was really taking the weight of the world on her shoulders.”

The Wait Is Over

Mednick’s hard work in the classroom has paid off. In the 11th hour, she went from being wait listed at Pitt, her first choice, to being accepted.

Once there, she will pursue her goal of being a physician’s assistant.

“I always knew I wanted to do something more in science and medicine,” she said. “I find it rewarding to be helping other people.

“I was thinking of med school, and that still might be what it is, but I like the fact that a physician’s assistant is doing something a little bit different. You are still working with the surgeon, while still being able to make a difference. You are getting more personal with the patient.”

While it will be tough saying goodbye, those in Mednick’s cheering section are looking forward to reading the next chapter.

“I could not be more excited for her that there is a happy ending here,” said Creighton. “She didn’t give up on herself, especially this year. Last year was more of a traumatic rollercoaster for her.

“To her credit, she said, ‘I’m not going to do this to myself during my senior year. I’m going to find ways to buffer and to deal with my emotions in another way.’”

Mednick will go from being a Tennent Panther to a Pitt Panther, and she couldn’t be more relieved.

“I was on the waiting list for quite some time,” said Mednick, who has two older brothers at Penn State. “I went and toured some other colleges. I toured another college that I was about to commit to, but I checked the waiting list (for Pitt) one more time because I just wasn’t in love with that other college. It seemed like everything fell into place.”

A ‘Family’ Affair

Mednick, who played softball into her sophomore year, also tried tennis for a bit and finished up on the Tennent golf team.

However, she never felt that full sense of family as much as she did on the basketball team.

“By my junior year, nothing felt better than to come to the gym and just play basketball,” Mednick said. “Literally, you cannot have anything else on your mind while playing. There is too much going on out there on the court already. It always took my mind off of (everything else).

“Also, everyone there would ask me how I was doing and if I needed anything.”

More than just the games, it was the practices and the bus rides and the locker room banter that made it ideal.

“Our team was very close this year,” said Mednick. “Since I don’t have the best home environment, family-wise, those girls became like my family. We connected over almost everything. The bus was the main part of how we connected, just screaming different songs from different genres. And, at the end of our bus ride, it was our thing to sing the national anthem together for some reason.”

It was only natural for her to become a leader.

“In the beginning of my high school career, I was definitely more just focused on myself and on how to improve my own game,” said Mednick. “Going into senior year, especially knowing that I wasn’t going to be playing in college or anything, I focused more on what I can do for the team.”

And the more Melnick did it, the more it felt like the right fit.

“It seems so much easier to focus on other people; to help them and calm them down,” she said. “We have one girl, (sophomore) Avery Kocur, and she is the most talented girl to have ever touched a Tennent basketball court. Just to be able to help her, just with the little things, to say, ‘It’s OK. That wasn’t a bad shot, just because you missed. Take it again.’ To be able to hype the team up and keep them all going was my favorite part of being on the basketball team.”

Mednick has rode two different ships – those of friendship and leadership – into her captaincy role this year.

“From her freshman year to her senior year, she has grown into a tremendous leader,” said Whitney. “That’s from both her actions and how hard she works and from encouraging teammates.

“She is a pleasure to have on the team. She is the kind of player that every coach would want. There was a competitive nature that she brought to the team. As a team, we fed off of her energy.”

Up Through the Ranks

As soon as Whitney laid eyes on Mednick as a freshman, she knew she was working with a different breed.

“She always had that no-fear attitude,” said Whitney. “She wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. She is naturally athletic. You could see the ability there. She was always coachable and just wanted to learn and improve. She never complained. She came and just gave 110 percent. You always knew what you were going to get from her. She always had, and played with, that moxie.”

In a time of Caitlin Clark hysteria, Mednick always identified more with Connecticut’s Paige Bueckers.

“I always liked UConn, and I always knew how good UConn was,” said Mednick. “When I was younger, and when I thought I was going to grow a little bit more, I thought I could play for them -- or something like that. I just like her grit, her determination. She has a great personality on and off the court.

“She also picks up her team and is a great team leader. That’s something I have always tried to do.”

While Bueckers is 6-0 and Mednick’s growth stopped at 5-4, there was a way follow the same trail that was blazed, and she has been a leader with a bigger than life personality.

Said Whitney of Mednick: “She a big reason why our team was a close as it was the last two years. She kind of a sensed it. Some of the younger girls were a little quiet. We weren’t really a family. The last two years have been a great group of girls to coach. They have been like a sisterhood, and she has been a big reason for us coming together as a team.”

While there were the issues at home for Mednick, Whitney was amazed how she blocked it all out and focused on the task at hand on the hardwood.

Said the coach: “She was always the first one at practice every day and always had a smile on her face. She just wanted to be there with the team. With some of what she was going through, you just wouldn’t know if you were an outsider.”

And, from the inside, Mednick ate up everything Whitney’s program had to offer. She rose through the ranks to become a two-year starter as the team became more competitive.

While the Panthers fell short of qualifying for districts, that achievement seems not too far off. Even though Mednick won’t be there in body, she helped to lay the groundwork for future success.

“She has been a four-year varsity basketball player,” said Whitney. “Each year earning more minutes. Junior and senior year, she was a starter. She’ll be the first to tell you that she is not going to be leading us in points most nights. Her impact, and most of what she does, isn’t going to show up on the stat sheet, but she is a big reason for any success we have had. She really is like the heart and soul of our team. She accepts her role and she epitomizes what it means to be a team player.”

Mednick’s aforementioned spunk was channeled this year into the role of defensive stopper.

“She was always one of our better defensive players, so she always had that role of guarding the other team’s best offensive player – just slowing them down to disrupt them,” said Whitney. “She always just accepted that role. Whatever was best for the team, she was always willing to do.”

Mednick said she sort of looked in the mirror and realized who she was and grew into that role.

“My upperclassman years is when I kind of just figured out that, although I’m small, I’m shifty and fast,” she said. “That not only helps me get around the court and move around the court. I have also always had a big personality, I would say. I’m outgoing and I’m loud. I like a little bit of trash talk, and I don’t let the other girls get into my head.”

Next year, when Whitney looks around, there will certainly be something missing.

“There is definitely going to be a big void to fill, just with her leadership,” said the coach. “You always knew you could rely on her.”