CHAMBERLAIN-With some advice from a former competitor and friend, Ella Byers found what she called the perfect fit for college.
The Chamberlain High School standout signed a national letter of intent with the University of South Dakota track and field and cross-country teams on Monday.
Byers picked the Coyotes after visiting South Dakota State University, while she also took an unofficial visit to Indiana University.
USD wasn't even on her radar until former Vermillion runner and current Coyote Maddie Lavin suggested she fill out a recruiting questionnaire. Byers got in contact with distance coach Dan Fitzsimmons and later visited the campus.
That cemented her decision.
"It was my last visit and I went there and I just absolutely loved it," Byers said. "I loved the environment of the campus. The team is all really close and they all seem to really get along well. I really liked the coach and it looks like they really have a great program going on down there."
Byers will major in biology and that also played a factor in picking USD.
"The ultimate goal for me is medical school," Byers said. "So I figured USD would be the perfect place for me because they have the only medical school in the state and I think for academic-wise, it just fit me better on that route."
Byers, who has two Class A state cross-country titles on her résumé from 2015 and 2018, said she's comfortable running anything from middle distance to long distance races in college track. Byers was South Dakota's Gatorade girls cross-country runner of the year for 2015, a four-time all-state runner and two-time All-American from the National High School Athletic Coaches Association in cross country.
She said it will be a challenge balancing athletics and academics, but she's not running away from it.
"I definitely think it is going to be really challenging and it's going to be an adjustment," Byers said. "But usually the busier I am, the more I keep myself accountable, and I think being in a sport will really help keep me accountable."