• The Covington Manta Rays have racked up a lot of ribbons over the years.

Some teenagers get part-time jobs to stay busy and earn some extra money.

Ella Krull, a 17-year-old senior-to-be at Tipton Christian Academy, decided to reboot, coach and run a swimming program.

The Covington Manta Rays had been going strong for several years before some coaching turnover in 2018 led to the disbandment of the program in 2019.


Krull had been swimming with the Manta Rays for many years, but had to go swim at Millington YMCA when her hometown team no longer existed.

“I started thinking about how we don’t have a team anymore,” said Krull. “My little brother (Jack, 10) swims and I just wanted that experience for him.”

The Manta Rays had been using the Covington city pool for many years, but the team was not directly associated the with the city. Krull decided to reach out to Covington Parks and Recreation Director Joe Mack and see if the city could be more involved.

“We kind of worked together to get the team started again,” Krull said.

“I told her, in order to do this, we would need to take swimming and put it under the umbrella of our youth programs,” Mack said. “I thought that’s always where it should have been.”

Last year, Krull began advertising on social media that tryouts would be held for the summer season. Krull said she expected about 15 kids to show up. Instead, 55 boys and girls ages 6-16 arrived at the pool ready to compete.

COVID-19 forced the program to shut down for a while last summer, but in the end it was a successful year. Thanks to a then 16-year-old, the Manta Rays were going strong again.

“At first we were a little skeptical,” Mack said about the idea of a high school student leading a sports program. “I mean, she was 16, but she said she was confident she could do it … She’s amazingly mature for her age and she’s done a fantastic job. Ella and her assistant coach (John Owen Hensley) are managing a program with about 40 kids. I’ve been impressed with her. The program has meant a lot not just for Covington, but the whole county.”

The Manta Rays have 28 swimmers on the team this summer (The numbers are bigger in the fall and winter) and have already hosted a couple of meets. The next one is scheduled for June 29. The Manta Rays are the only team that competes year-round, so they hold meets in the winter where they break up the team and compete against each other.

When opposing coaches meet Krull in person for the first time, they are, without exception, surprised to be face to face with a teenager.

“I’m the youngest coach in the league by far,” Krull said with a laugh. “Most of my conversations (with other coaches) are by email so they just assume (I’m an adult). Our first meet vs. Gibson, the coach comes in and you can tell she’s obviously looking for the coach. I go up and introduce myself and she goes, ‘Oh wow, how old are you again?'”

Krull is too old to compete for the Manta Rays now, but she swims for her high school team. The breast stroke and back stroke are her specialties. She began swimming in her grandparents’ pool and said her dad (Erik), a competitive swimmer in his youth, encouraged her to get serious about the sport.

As for the future, Krull said she plans on coaching the Manta Rays at least until she goes to college in the fall of 2022. She does not, however, rule out coaching beyond that.

“If the opportunity arises again this is something I would definitely want to do. I like to be able to give back to what I basically did for my entire life.”

Jeff Ireland
Author: Jeff Ireland