Severna Park’s Ella Grizzle breaking records, eyeing 2024 bid on US weightlifting team
By Mike Morea
Feb 17, 2020 | 6:15 PM
Many lunchtime conversations at an Annapolis sailing store focused on a young lady from Severna Park setting records in an obscure sport.
Her uncle, Andrew Elder, an accomplished sailor who finished second at the 2017 J/111 World Championships, would speak highly of his niece.
While the Severna Park girls’ lacrosse team captured a state championship last spring and the girls’ soccer team earned a runner-up finish in the fall, Ella Grizzle was breaking records both nationally and internationally in the sport of weightlifting.
Grizzle decided on weightlifting after playing both soccer and lacrosse into her early teens. She would accompany her mother and father to the gym, where her parents would engage in CrossFit, and some of the movements and activities guided her to weightlifting.
“I grew up seeing my dad do CrossFit and watching the CrossFit Games and I always thought seeing them lift weights was really cool,” Grizzle said. “I always wanted to go in and try doing cleans and something in the gym and when I found out it was a sport and something I could compete in, I was really excited to try it. I loved how, to me, it doesn’t feel like I am just in the gym lifting weights all the time. There is so much technique that goes into it.”
When Grizzle was playing lacrosse and also going to the gym, it was evident she was leaning toward focusing on weightlifting. That’s because she never wanted to skip going to the gym.
“She used to play lacrosse and I coached her and she played on the JV team at Severna Park her freshman year. She was doing weightlifting at the same time,” Betsy Grizzle said of her daughter. "She didn’t ever want to miss weightlifting training, so she would have high school practice, and then we would have to drive all the way to her weightlifting training, so it finely got to be too much. She decided she wanted to do weightlifting.
“Brian and I do CrossFit and we’ve done that for a long time. Ella and Nolan would always come and they would be there watching,” Betsy Grizzle added. “As they got a little older, Ella wanted to learn how to do some of the movements, so Brian would teach her how to do like a power-clean or a snatch. She really liked it and we sent a video of her to some friends who knew her coach now and he had a team and said he wanted to start to work with her. So she started training with them and just fell in love with the sport.”
The junior at Severna Park just came back from San Francisco after breaking the youth record in the snatch and the overall weight completed at the 2020 USA Weightlifting National Junior Championships for ages 20 and under. Since Grizzle is 16 until April, she is classified as a youth for the entire year and her weight class is 55 kilograms (121 pounds).
Grizzle, who trains at True Core CrossFit in Annapolis with Anthony Hernandez, had been lifting 77 kilograms in practice and went into the event with a goal of breaking the youth American record. She opened with a successful lift of 78 kilograms (172 pounds), breaking the record of 77 that was established in 2015. She followed with a snatch of 80 kilograms (176 pounds) and on the third attempt completed an 82 (181 pounds) snatch. The next closest competitor in her weight class lifted 75 kilos.
In the clean-and-jerk, Grizzle hoisted up 90 kilos (198 pounds), which when combined with the weight she previously snatched was enough to surpass the total weight record. Along with those two feats, Grizzle holds the 14- and 15-year old, 55 kilogram weight class record for snatch (73) and total (159). She also owns the Pan American Youth records at the same weight class in the snatch (76) and total (165), which was set in Las Vegas on March 10, 2019.
Grizzle comes from an athletic family, with her mother having starred in soccer and lacrosse at both Severna Park High and the University of Maryland. Betsy Elder Grizzle has been inducted into the Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame (2017), the Greater Baltimore Chapter of U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the Severna Park High Athletic Hall of Fame after winning multiple championships on the pitch and field for the Falcons and being a three-time All-American in lacrosse for the Terrapins.
Brian Grizzle, an energy trader at Exelon and a CrossFit instructor, played football at Severna Park and was recruited by many schools before deciding to go to Georgia Southern for an education.
“I had such a good experience playing sports and being parts of teams growing up that I definitely wanted that for her. I was lucky to be able to coach her growing up in soccer and lacrosse, so she certainly picked those up and really loved those sports,” Betsy Grizzle said. “I was glad she liked sports. We’re a pretty athletic family so she kind of fell into it naturally. Brian and I have always done sports and CrossFit and Nolan is pretty active in sports, so we’re always busy.”
Ella has a couple uncles who were outstanding athletes at Severna Park, while her grandfather, Bob Elder, was a football and basketball player at Aberdeen High before becoming an accomplished racing skipper with Round Bay Sailing Association. Ella also has a brother, Nolan, who is an eighth grader and very active in the youth sports scene as a soccer and lacrosse player.
“Me and my wife are just so proud of her. Not only is she an exceptional, straight A, honor roll student, but she has just really dedicated herself and worked hard at it. Her technique is something to behold for such a little girl,” Bob Elder said of his granddaughter. “I think this shows that she has a lot of drive and energy, to go with extreme focus. She has all these inspirational sayings on the wall of her bedroom and right over the top of her bedroom door are the Olympic Rings. She is just so really driven.”
At just 17, Grizzle has huge aspirations for her future in weightlifting. Her main goal is the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris and the campaign has already begun to achieve that goal.
“I think, hopefully, I want to go to the 2024 Olympics," said a humbled Grizzle. "Between here and then, it’s all about having fun, training hard and getting to go to a lot of cool places for meets and taking in the experience.”
The Severna Park boys and girls swimming teams each won the Class 4A East Region titles on Saturday. The county will have close to 40 swimmers represented at the the state championship meet at the University of Maryland's Eppley Recreation Center starting at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.
On Grizzle’s calendar is a trip to Bucharest, Romania in March with Team USA for the Junior World Championships and possibly to Peru in November for the 2020 World Youth Weightlifting Championships.
“I just need to keep on the path that I’m on and trust my coach,” Grizzle said. “I know that he can get me to where I want to go as long as I put in the work. I am just planning on what meets I do to get some more experience. Plus just learn more about what I am doing. There is still a huge learning experience for me out there.”
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Grizzle trains five days a week for between two and three hours a day and maintains a high grade point average while taking a school schedule that includes advanced placement classes. Her plans are to attend a college to study in a field of either science, medical or engineering at a school that has yet to be decided, but still has over a year before that takes place. In the meantime, she supports her schools athletics and looks for more exciting things to happen for her classmates.
“I’m really supportive of all my friends that play on the athletic teams at school," Grizzle said. "(Weightlifting) is weird because it’s not a team sport, but at the same time it is because I train with other girls every day. I never feel like it is just me going into a competition. My coach is always there with me so that makes me feel like it is a team.”
Conversely, Grizzle is not one to boast about her accomplishments. She lets her friends know about upcoming events that she will participate in and responds to questions about how she performed after meets, but mainly keeps her weightlifting accolades close to the vest.
“The Elder family is a very humble family, and Ella has learned that trait,” Andrew Elder said of his niece. “My sister never bragged about the many things she accomplished, and Ella has really accepted her accomplishments and celebrated with her family. That’s the way she is.”
Grizzle is hoping to one day join the short list of Anne Arundel County natives to earn an Olympic medal, joining the likes of wrestler Lloyd Keaser (Brooklyn Park, Navy), distance runner Matt Centrowitz (Broadneck High, Oregon), swimmer Theresa Andrews (Annapolis native, Florida) and sailor Scott Steele (Annapolis native, St. Mary’s College).