The rest of the field at the Elgin City Classic cross country meet may not have known much about St. Charles North freshman Audrey Ernst before Tuesday, but they certainly do now.
Ernst made quite a splash in her varsity debut at Lords Park, exploding onto the scene to win the girls' individual title by more than 27 seconds over second place finisher Gabby Juarez from Streamwood with a time of 18:02.4.
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The North Stars also won the girls' team title with 28 points. The Sabres finished a distant second with 56. Bartlett took third with 89.
East Aurora ran away with boys title with 19 points. Dundee-Crown (83 points) edged out St. Charles North (85 points) for second place. The Tomcats' David Galvan won the individual boys' title.
Ernst came into the cross country season plenty prepared after second-place finishes in triathlons over the summer in meets at the World Junior Championships in Ohio and Wisconsin.
"I have done a lot of training," said Ernst. "But I still didn't know what to expect in my first race. I just tried to run as hard as I could. I thought it was a great experience and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season."
The North Stars also got strong finishes from sophomore Madison Kaufmann (4th), sophomore Alli Chen (6th), junior Nina Olshever (7th), and freshman Ally Suyak (10th).
'We lost our top two runners from last year, but it sure is great to be able to replace your number one with someone like Audrey," North coach Shari Hayes said."We knew she was going to be something special. I thought the rest of the team ran great, too. We ran a little slower at the start and then sped it up."
The Sabres' Juarez, who finished 49th at the state meet a year ago was also impressed with the newcomer Ernst.
"I had no idea about her," said Juarez. "At first when I saw her break from the pack I thought she might be one of these runners that start fast and then die out. But she just kept going."
Samantha Harding finished in third place for the Sabres and Addie Kelly took fifth.
"We were hoping Gabby would win it," said Streamwood coach Denny Lau. "But we didn't know about this girl from North. She was impressive. I was still real pleased with our performance. Gabby just keeps getting better every year and it was great to see Samantha and Addie get in the top 5. The training is really kicking in."
On the boys side the Tomcats' Galvan rallied in the last quarter mile to pass Glenbard North's Joey Campagna to take first place with a time of 16:15.4
The Tomcats had 5 of the top 6 finishers with Felipe Nino (3rd), Christian Castro (4th), Ruben Nino (5th), and Jose Alvarado (6th).
"The great thing about this group is any one of those five can be our top runner on any given day," East coach Shane Gillespie. "It's really a great group with no egos. David was the guy today. He's a kid who stated out as nothing special running 23 minutes as a freshman, but has really worked hard every year to get better and better."