Before the standout track and field seasons at LampeterStrasburg, before winning three gold medals as a senior and continuing his career at Duke University, Ezra Mellinger spent his winters as a high school freshman and sophomore on the Pioneers’ wrestling team.
“I was glad that I transitioned into doing winter track and stuff,” Mellinger, the former lightweight said over the phone recently, “but wrestling is a very special sport. There’s nothing better than being out on the mat with just one other person. I think a lot of my competitiveness sort of came from that, and it transitioned over into track.”
The competitiveness was a key ingredient for Mellinger once he went all in on the track and in the field, through a prep career that culminated with one of the most decorated runs in Lancaster-Lebanon League track and field history.
As a senior last year, Mellinger won Pennsylvania’s indoor state title in a recordsetting performance. The momentum carried into the spring season outdoors, where Mellinger capped his campaign with state-championship performances in the long jump and 200-meter dash.
It also earned him Lancaster County Sports Hall of Fame/ LNP Male Athlete of the Year honors for the 2018-19 school year. He and Donegal’s Mackenzie Allessie, the Female Athlete of the Year, will be honored at the annual Lancaster County Sports Hall of Fame banquet, being held Tuesday, Oct. 29, where Lampeter-Strasburg head track and field coach Calvin Esh and jumps coach Edward Lennex plan to accept the award on Mellinger’s behalf.
“That’s a huge honor,” Mellinger said. “When I think about it, there are so many student-athletes in this area, and just the fact that I was picked Athlete of the Year, it really struck me. I knew I was good, but I didn’t know everyone saw me as that good, so I was pretty awestruck about that.”
Ezra Mellinger soaked it all in while he stood on the infield on Day Two of the Lancaster-Le…
Since graduating from Lampeter-Strasburg in May, Mellinger finished 11th in the long jump at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina.
He returned to that state in August to begin his freshman year at Duke. In between, Mellinger worked on the preseason training regimen outlined by Duke’s track and field coaches. The workouts have ratcheted up in intensity since he arrived on campus.
“It’s a little tiring,” Mellinger said. “It’s definitely the most work I’ve ever done. I feel like I’m getting into the best shape I’ve ever been. It’s hard on the body, but it feels good. I really enjoy it.”
Mellinger, who plans to focus his studies on science, said he also enjoys the campus setting.
“There are so many awesome resources here,” he said. “The weather is fantastic. It’s warm all the time, and super pretty. I really do love it here.”
Duke’s track and field schedule kicks off with indoor competitions in January, giving Mellinger a chance to acclimate to his new surroundings and to file away his high school memories of jumping 24 feet, 11.5 inches to claim a state title in February, and of mining gold in both the long jump and the 200 at leagues, districts and states.
“I definitely had time to take it in,” Mellinger said, “especially over the summer. After I was done competing, it really did sink in. Now, I just have my sights on my next big competition. I want to keep moving forward.”