Growing up, Ella Mangels always wanted to become a college athlete as she describes herself as the type of person that wants to go “above and beyond.”
The Jackson senior always wants to obtain new heights in whatever she’s doing in life since playing a sport at the next level isn’t the end of the road by any means.
For the next few years, Mangels will continue to be encapsulated by the sport she loves — softball — at Mineral Area College. Ella signed with the Cardinals earlier this month after her final high school season as an Indian.
“I know it’s not the end of my future, but you always want to go higher,” Mangels said. “This was little Ella’s biggest dream, so I was just so excited [to sign with MAC]. … They have the program I want to go into — nursing — and in a way that I can do it in three years.
“It’s also within a good distance [from home], and I’m really family-oriented, so being close to my family was really important to me. My mom already said she’s going to put a little pullout couch in my bedroom.”
Another big reason why Mangels signed with MAC is she’ll be continuing her playing career with fellow Indian and senior Kam Tucker. In their final season at Jackson this past fall, Ella and Kam helped the Indians record their most wins in program history  and bring home their first district championship in 24 years.
Mangels noted the Cardinals are wanting to build a new culture. “From what I was hearing, I thought, ‘I want to be a part of that,’” Ella said.
On the diamond this fall, Mangels finished with a .393 batting average, registering 32 runs scored, 22 hits, 21 runs batted in, 14 stolen bases, four doubles and one triple. Ella recorded a batting average above .500 through the first 18 games.
“I was coming off a pretty hot travel ball season, so it was really just a jump from, ‘OK, well I excelled in travel ball, so I want to turn it over,’” Mangels said. “I’m not a hitter that hits home runs, I’m a bunter and dink hitter. I’m the ‘going to move the runner around’ person.
“Honestly, it’s just a contagious sport, so if the person in front of me is doing well and I catch their energy that they’re confident, then I’m going to go in confident. It’s a very contagious feeling from batter to batter, which is another reason why we performed so well.”
In the outfield, Ella recorded a .905 fielding percentage as she produced 40 outs herself and assisted on 46 while being a part of six double plays. Deservedly so, Mangels garnered both SEMO All-Conference and Class 5 District 1 All-District honors.
“Being a part of a 33-5 team is mind-blowing — we’ve never done that well,” Mangels said. “It’s just everyone had drive to go out and do a job. Every athlete’s goal is to make everyone around them proud, so we were just very prideful in wanting to do well for the player standing next to us.”
Mangels has been playing softball ever since she could start doing so, and she’s fallen in love with the sport because of the bonds she makes with players and coaches alike. Ella has not only made lifelong friendships through playing at Jackson, but also in travel and club ball.
“I’ve been reaching out to girls that are on MAC right now, and it’s just such a contagious environment,” she said. “Everyone wants to be friends, they want to be a family and they want to stick together. The bonds you make with everyone is a hypnotic feeling.”
The club team Ella plays for outside of school ball for Jackson is Perryville Stars Elite and has been ever since she was nine-years-old. Mangels and her teammates refer to the program as “The Stars Family.”
“There are girls from everywhere on the team — Saxony, Perryville, Advance and Chester, Illinois,” she explained. “We all come together and it’s just a family because we are all there for the same reason. A lot of our team has now started to sign, and I’m so proud of everyone.”
Outside of improving in her own game, Mangels said she has learned plenty of things about life as well while playing for the Perryville Stars. Some these lessons include being coachable, responsible and relied on.
“You don’t realize you’re being taught those things until you sit down and think, ‘Wow, I have learned so much from these 12 girls and four coaches,’” Ella said. “It makes me excited for college because everyone’s going in with the same mindset. They don’t know the girl next to them, and they probably the same caliber of player, but there’s so much love for the game in all of them.”
Like Mangels had mentioned earlier, she wants to become a nurse when her softball playing days are over. The person who influenced her to go into this field was none other than her mom. “Growing up I was like, ‘I want to come home in scrubs every day — I want to be just like my mom,’” Ella said. “She knows what to do and fixes everything.”