St. Charles North's Ernst has success at national level
There are not very many 17-year-old girls who live in Kane County who can say they have represented their nation at an international athletic competition.
But Audrey Ernst can make such a boast.
"I have met people from all over the world," the St. Charles North junior said. "I feel so incredibly blessed and grateful. It is an incredible feeling (to represent your nation)."
Last month in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Ernst demonstrated with conviction her exceptional athleticism by capturing the high school national championship in the triathlon.
"There is so much competition," Ernst said. "There are so many great athletes."
According to Ernst, the three-discipline sport of swimming, biking and running has standard distances for her age group.
"A half-mile swim, 20 K bike and 5 K run," Ernst said.
Ernst was in fourth place after the swimming event.
But the North Stars' standout cross-country and track and field five-time combined all-stater took the lead for good by recording the fastest bike split.
Ernst traversed the 12-plus miles of the bicycle portion in 36 minutes, 37 seconds and concluded the three-plus mile run to win in 1 hour, 10 minutes and 53 seconds.
Ernst defeated Virginia native Grace Obando by 59 seconds.
The North Stars' junior could not help but pay homage to her principal sponsor.
Sammy Radi, born in Israel, owns two bicycle shops in St. Charles.
"(Radi) has been my biggest supporter," Ernst said. "I would be nowhere without him."
The St. Charles resident does not charge Ernst a dime for the thousands of dollars that elite triathlon bicycles cost.
"It has made a really big difference," Radi said of his bicycles Ernst employs in competition. "I really believe in her. Hopefully one day I will get to see her in the Olympics."
Ernst has been a national representative in the sport at age-group triathlons twice in Mexico and once in Europe.
"It was incredible to have the mountains right next to you," Ernst said of her bicycle race through the Austrian Alps.
The junior was runner-up at the inaugural girls national championship last year.
"It really inspires me to be the best that I can be," Ernst said of her triathlon career.
As the first-year girls track coach at St. Charles North, Kate Mehalic is not terribly older than her star junior.
Ernst, all-state at both 1,600- and 3,200-meters last season, won her first Kane County championship last week at West Aurora in the longer distance after missing the meet her first two years at national competitions.
"(The national championship) was a week earlier this year," Ernst said.
"(Being a national champion) is not something to take lightly," Mehalic said. "We made sure all the girls (on the track team) knew what she accomplished. We had a little celebration for her. There are not that many kids who could pull that off with all that elegance."
There was also a team competition at the national championship.
Multi Sport Madness, composed exclusively of girls from Chicagoland, also was crowned champions.
Aurora resident and Kaneland student Tessa Brennan was a part of the team championship.