Invincible Ella

When Ella Maclean was seven, she started running track. She remembers, “I started just to make friends, but I just fell in love with the environment and all the people that do it…I love it. It’s so much fun.” That very first year, she placed second at states and has dominated ever since.

Her freshman year of high school, she won the 100 at States and went to New Englands with the 4×100 team. After getting hurt her Sophomore year, she bounced back as the runner up at Dartmouth relays where she set the school record for 55M DASH (7.43s). Things can change quickly though. After qualifying for New Englands last year, the world shut down due to Covid and, weeks later, Ella was involved in a freak accident.

On May 17, Ella and her family were hiking around Smith Pond in Enfield, NH. She and her sister wandered over to a fallen log that was sticking out of a pile of rocks by the Shaker Dam for a photo. All of a sudden, she felt the pile shift and she yelled at her sister to get out of the way as three boulders started careening down towards her. One crushed her foot, pushing her backwards over a ledge. She landed roughly on a rock as another boulder rolled over her. “I remember just laying on my mom’s lap and apologizing for getting hurt. When I looked up I saw my sister and I didn’t want her to see me hurt in a way because I’ve always been the big sister who’s invincible to her.”

In total, Ella sustained two broken bones in her foot and five fractures in her pelvis. She went from being in the best shape of her life, poised to break school records and take on Regionals, to being confined to a wheelchair. One week after the accident, her mom wheeled her in to her first Physical Therapy appointment at Cioffredi & Associates with Zac Gardner, PT.

I really cannot put into words how it felt to wheel her in that first day. On the way to the room, I saw Billy Cioffredi. I just said, ‘please fix her’ and Zac did just that. -Becca Cattabriga

Smiles, Perseverance, And The Road To Recovery

“Even then, she was a big ball of energy. She was in a wheelchair, but she just wanted to get back on the track right away,” Zac recalls. They got to work immediately as Ella’s persistent work ethic and energy pushed her forward each and every session. “I LOVE coming here. It’s so fun. Even when I was in my wheelchair and really couldn’t do anything, Zac never really let me give up and he always pushed me to do more and work hard,” Ella exclaims.

Her perseverance brought her out of the wheelchair through the worst months of the pandemic and onto her feet. In October, she learned her foot wasn’t healing properly and she had to have additional surgery. “It was tough being patient. Zac would always find a way to make me laugh or make me look on the bright side about something.” Zac adds, “Through the whole thing, she always had a smile on her face. It was a long recovery, so just having that positive attitude was so important.”

From Rehab To Performance

By January, Ella was miraculously ready to start practicing again with her team and Zac started to transition her from physical rehabilitation to performance. “We’re working more on her power, her takeoffs, trying to get her really comfortable exploding off her foot. She’s running a 100 meter. The power in the start, that’s the whole race essentially.”

When the season started up, Ella continued coming in to the Cioffredi Sports Performance Center for pre-meet tune-ups. “Ella came in and said, ‘my calf is tight, my meet is tomorrow, what should I do?’ We were able to get the Neubie on her, loosen it up, and she was able to run really well. And when I saw her the other day, she had no calf pain at all. [Without the Neubie,] that recovery is probably two weeks.”

Now, Zac’s intuitive treatments and all her hard work and positivity is paying off. Ella is competing in meets and has picked up right where she left off. She is currently ranked #1 in the state for the 100 and achieved her PR, just a couple hundredths of a second off breaking the school record.

New Paths, New Perspectives

After all she’s been through, she’s looking at things with a new perspective. “I’ve never been in the mindset I am now. I run because I can run and just really love doing what I’m doing. That’s always the mindset I’ve always wanted to be in, but it never has been because I’ve always put so much pressure on myself. But now I’m really focusing on trying to do that. I just want to do the best I can.”

“The biggest silver lining of all of this is that I found out what I actually want to do. I thought I wanted to be a nurse. Now that I’ve spent a long time in PT, I just really love the environment; the fact that everyone is trying to get better in their own way… I want to become a PT because of all this. I just want to help people the way I was helped.”

With track meets, college, and career on the horizon, Ella is poised to take on the world. In the meantime, Zac has high expectations for Ella. She exclaims, “He always told me when I was still in my wheelchair, I should wheel up to the line and run. And when I win states, to thank him. I was like, OK, you got it!”

Please join us in cheering Ella on in States, Regionals, and beyond!

Update: Ella Maclean is State Champion!

Watch her video journey below:


Thank you all for the amazing job you did getting my daughter, Ella, back on her feet… She is able to be back where she is happiest and that is running very quickly for very short periods of time!! Thank you, thank you, thank you! -Becca Cattabriga

Sports Performance