By Mark Zimmaro
SPRINGFIELD, PA --If there is anyone who can survive an eight-hour dance marathon, it’s Ellie Miller.
Miller, who spends her spring scoring huge goals for the Cardinal O’Hara High School girls’ lacrosse team, is a three-sport athlete and one of the most energized students at the school, belonging to numerous clubs.
Although her biggest performances usually come on the lacrosse field, Miller has had another night circled on her calendar for a while. On May 27, O’Hara will hold its annual Danny Hammond Dance Marathon, which supports the school’s Lion’s Philanthropy Fund, helping the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities Appeal, Bringing Hope Home, and HEADstrong Foundation. More importantly, it honors 2010 graduate Danny Hammond, who courageously fought cancer after being first diagnosed at age 9. Hammond passed away in 2014 at the age of 20.
“We raise money for childhood cancer, and we have a big fundraiser every year,” Miller said. “I help set up everything and be a part of it. All year we go out to different places and fundraise and do car washes and a lot of different things throughout the year to prepare for it. Then we dance for like 12 hours.”
This year’s event is scheduled from noon to 8 p.m., which should be a walk in the park for Miller, who is used to a busy workload. Miller plays lacrosse, soccer and basketball for her school while competing on lacrosse and soccer club teams in addition.
O'Hara Junior Ellie Miller (L) stops to take a picture with teammate junior Anastasia Ciminera during the PCL Semifinals vs. Lansdale Catholic (photo/James Williamson for PSD)
She is also on the Student Council, Math Club, and the school’s Lion Connection, which helps freshmen get acquainted with school. Miller goes even further to help her classmates by tutoring as a member of the National Honors Society. She is ranked in the top 10 percent of her grade academically.
“There’s not much free time,” Miller said with a laugh. “But it’s all worth it in the end.”
Soccer and lacrosse are Miller's main sports and she has become a focal point of O’Hara’s lacrosse program during her junior year.
Miller showed fierce defense in the 2019 PCL soccer tournament showcase vs. Hallahan. Photo/Patty Morgan for PSD)
“She’s got great hands and a beautiful, strong shot, and a nice beautiful release with great placement,” said O’Hara head lacrosse coach Jenny Duckenfield. “But she’s a dual threat in the sense where she sees the field and has excellent precision passing. And she’s a lefty, which is tough to stop.”
Miller is still uncommitted to play in college but certainly has the tools to excel at the next level.
“She has the field vision and she has the athletic ability and she’s coachable, and she’s such a team player,” Duckenfield said. “Ellie could have had a kazillion goals during the season. But she didn’t want to. She really worked on her feeding, her passing. In all of our non-league games, she gets faced with double or triple coverage. That speaks volumes to her ability.”
Miller’s work at O’Hara isn’t finished. The Lions will compete in the District 12 playoffs next week and Miller still has her senior year for one more shot at a Philadelphia Catholic League title.
O’Hara went 9-1 in the division during the regular season and only lost to Archbishop Carroll, who has defeated 252 consecutive PCL opponents. The Lions were also defeated by Carroll in the league championship game.
O’Hara’s program is starting to narrow the gap.
“In years past, O’Hara hasn’t been really known as a powerhouse in Catholic League (lacrosse),” Miller said after the championship game. “Even though we weren’t on today, we definitely have the potential to beat them in the coming years.”
Lacrosse practices will be grueling this week and Miller will be up to the task. Somehow, she will find the time and energy to dance a marathon away on Thursday. Miller will be one of hundreds of O’Hara students raising money for a great cause and students’ donation page can be found by visiting https://2021dhdm.causevox.com/.
“I have a little cousin with pediatric cancer so it’s pretty meaningful to me,” Miller said. “It’s nice to see that a lot of people are coming together for a big cause.”
Excelling in big moments is a common trend in Miller’s life. And it is usually someone else who benefits, whether it’s on the field or off it.
Miller led the way for the Lions with 5 goals and 5 assists in the PCL semifinal victory against Lansdale Catholic (photo/James Williamson for PSD)
“Ellie would rather have assists than score,” Duckenfield said. “She’s just that type of kid. She loves setting her teammates up and she loves seeing them score.”