ST. CHARLES – St. Charles North senior triathlete Audrey Ernst could be striking the Heisman trophy pose soon, but not for football recognition.
Ernst, 18, was announced as a Wendy's High School Heisman national finalist last week. She is among nine additional individuals – five males and five females – chosen from a pool of 100 state qualifiers.
Ernst found about the award through her triathlon coach, who encouraged her to apply back in October.
"I feel incredibly blessed and so fortunate to receive this. I can't even believe it," Ernst said.
Ernst is a National USA High School Triathlon champion, and signed her national letter of intent to compete in triathlons at Arizona State University in the same week as the Heisman announcement.
The women's Sun Devils program is highly decorated, as it is reigning back-to-back USA Triathlon Collegiate National Champions.
To commemorate the Heisman honor, Ernst is slated for a scholarship of either $5,000 or $10,000, depending on the next round of judging. If Ernst is selected as the female national winner, she'll earn the $10,000 scholarship and recognition during ESPN's broadcast announcing college football's Heisman winner.
The eight individuals not chosen as national winners will receive a $5,000 scholarship.
Ernst will be travelling to New York City, New York Dec. 8-10 for the Heisman weekend with the nine other finalists.
In order to be eligible for the Wendy's honor, Ernst had to maintain a grade point average of three or above, per the website. Furthermore, one has to perform in at least one of the 47 school sponsored sports recognized by the International Olympic Committee in the Summer or Winter Olympic Games or National Federation of State High School Associations.
The NCAA recognizes triathlons as an "emerging sport" for women, a development that became official in 2014. Currently, 18 universities nationwide have varsity programs, including North Central College in Naperville, Illinois.
Arizona State and seven additional universities at the time received a Team USA Triathlon grant to help develop the sport in April 2015.
Ernst is a four-time USA Triathlon All-American, and has won several competitions in her triathlon career. Now, she'll get to carry out a life aspiration out west.
"I've always dreamed of having the opportunity to go out and be able to be on a national championship team. [Plus], be part of the start of women's triathlons as a NCAA sport," Ernst continued. "It's been the greatest week of my life."
Her decorated track career also includes being a five-time Illinois High School Association "All-State" athlete, and currently holds the school record in the 1,600 meter run in four minutes, 58 seconds and 58 milliseconds.