• Ursula Billings competes in the 3200 meter run for Crest High School.

More than an athlete

The Iola Register

COLONY — Ursula Billings is more than just a “one-trick pony.” Not only does the Crest sophomore run cross country and track for the Lancers, she also competes for the Iola Seahorses in the pool. 

Yes, Billings is a superb athlete, finishing ninth at state in the 3200 meter run as a freshman, and, as such, is one of June’s Allen County Area Athletes of the Month. But sports aren’t her only interest. Billings is a scholar, swim coach, musician, animal lover, poultry judge, and a part-time novelist. 

Safe to say, she is more than just your prototypical high-school athlete. 

Billings’s forte is her ability to run. At the state track meet, Billings missed out on a medal by 4 seconds. As for swimming, it’s not her first love, but she enjoys the team atmosphere.

Still, she believes she is better on land than in water. 

Billings has taken the past couple of summers to improve her stroke technique. Billings admits she once viewed swimming more as an activity for fun. But after younger kids started passing her up in times, her competitive spirit kicked in.

Billings has excelled in the pool this summer, sweeping all her events in her first meet in Coffeyville. Winning is a big plus, but the effects swimming can provide in running are an even larger positive.

“Swim team is really fun because of all the different strokes you can do. It’s fun to see how I can improve various strokes. With running, all you do is run,” Billings said. “The only variety is either short or long distance.”

Swimming is definitely an aerobic exercise that beefs up the cardiovascular system. 

“You are constantly holding your breath, expanding your lungs, during swimming,” she said. “It helps with your breathing when running because you aren’t gasping for breath. You are more controlled and can count your breath, and it makes it easier on your heart and lungs.”

Billings also is a swim instructor this summer. 

“It is a lot better than I thought it was going to be,” Billings said of the job. “I actually didn’t want a job. It’s summer vacation, after all. But my mom told me I needed to get a job and Elka (her sister) was going to get a job and she was driving me so I thought I might as well get a job. 

“The kids are fun to be around. The first week that I did swim lessons I had two 5-year-olds and a few older kids, but this week I have all older kids. If I can see that I’m making a difference and they are learning, then it’s all good.” 

Those young swimmers are in great hands. Billings is someone who gives 110% to whatever activity she puts her mind to. Sister Elka says Ursula’s competitive attitude and will to win is evident through the leadership roll she took upon herself last fall during cross country season. 

“I wouldn’t say that she gets necessarily angry, but she’s just like ‘c’mon’ and really wants to boost everyone up,” Elka said. “She just wants to get everyone in the right mindset so that when we run, we are all in the zone.” 

Billings wanted her cross country team to make it to state, but they missed out after being one place away. Still, Billings made the state meet as an individual.

But that wasn’t the only state competition Billings qualified for. As it turns out, Billings is also a solid musician on the violin. She achieved a second-best rating at state with her solo “Ave Maria.” 

Billings keeps busy with not too much time to spare. During the summer, she also finds herself doing work around her family’s farm. 

“We have a lot of chores we have to do,” Billings said. “We have to get food and water for the chickens, we also have a bunch of goats which I really like. We also have a pig, so all of that takes a lot of my time.” 

She went to state for FFA poultry judging for CDEs (Career Development Events) and finished 10th. Billings judged eggs, live chickens,or poultry meat products. 

“We went up to Manhattan for regionals,” Billings said. “You have like eight different parts for poultry judging with a bunch of different meat parts and two different classes of chickens. It’s just all about chickens!”

Aside from sports, violin, and working on the farm, Billings describes herself as “kind of an author.” Billings likes coming up with fictional stories and already has produced a few works that she has published online. A common theme is for the protagonist to be a combination of farm girl and author with animals — and their perspectives — involved.

“The second story I wrote, the ‘good one’ is about wolves that live in the Alaskan tundra,” Billings said. “Three little puppies get separated from their family and they have to fight their way back home. Also, their is a giant grizzly bear that is tracking them down.”

The thinking and creativity doesn’t stop with writing. Billings also hopes to become valedictorian when her high school years are all said and done. She’s on her way with a perfect 4.0 GPA. 

Billings has a lot on her plate, and being an athlete is only a small piece of the pie. So it makes sense why the community chose her to be one of June’s Allen County Area Athletes of the Month.  

The Iola Register

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