GREENSBURG – Whatever team Hilary Ernstes plays on, it’s pretty much a guarantee she will flash a smile every day and bring positive energy to her teammates.
Greensburg track and field coach Katina Tekulve called Ernstes an outstanding leader. She’s an upbeat athlete who always makes you laugh.
“She encourages and motivates her peers with her personality and enthusiasm,” Tekulve said. “She will be a great addition to Manchester in both academics and athletics, and I greatly look forward to following her in her future endeavors.”
Ernstes will attend Manchester University in the fall, when she plans on playing soccer and then running track in the spring. The GCHS senior had a signing ceremony Wednesday in the school lobby, where friends and family joined her to take pictures and celebrate her big day.
Greensburg soccer coach Ryan Morlan called Ernstes one of the most competitive people he knows. Ernstes was a senior captain for the Pirates this past fall, and the coach said her leadership will be missed.
“Her heart was always in the game,” Morlan said, “and she wanted everyone on the team to do their best. I am happy to see she will be able to play to keep her passion to compete alive.”
Riding the bus to away games, Ernstes was always the one who would sing and keep her teammates’ energy and spirits high.
Morlan always challenges his captains to give advice to the team after practice, plus before games and at halftime. Ernstes’ advice was usually to never give up, even if you are tired.
“I am not sure I saw Hil ‘tired’ more than a couple of times. She is always full of energy,” Morlan said.
“Hilary’s strong personality will take her many places in life, and I wish her all the best.”
Ernstes plays three sports at GCHS, including currently being on the basketball team. She loves playing sports because of the camaraderie.
“Just being with my friends is a big thing for me,” she said. “I love competing. And I like being physically fit.”
Ernstes fell in love with track when she was in sixth grade, loving the feeling of racing. Like anyone, she loves winning, but also knows how to learn from the experiences when that doesn’t happen.
“I don’t necessarily like to lose,” she said, “but you take the losses and you learn from them, and you keep pushing yourself harder.”
She typically runs the 400 and 4x100. The 400 is Ernstes’ strongest event, Tekulve said, but she’s versatile and is quick enough to run the 200 while also having the endurance to run the 800.
Path to soccer
Ernstes came to GCHS when she was a freshman. She had attended South Decatur from sixth through eighth grade, and St. Mary’s before that.
She ran cross-country her freshman year with the Pirates, but switched to soccer her sophomore year. Soccer was always a sport she had wanted to try, and she was thrilled to get the opportunity to play it.
“I just fell in love with the sport completely,” Ernstes said.
Ernstes played defense. She was a center back, where she could take advantage of her speed and help protect the goal. Speed is a valuable asset to play forward, but Ernstes said she lacked a different trait needed to play offense.
“I’m not really good with aiming,” she said.
Ernstes didn’t score any goals her junior year, but set a goal to score on her senior year. She had three assists, but still hadn’t scored when sectionals rolled around.
The Pirates led Beach Grove 5-2 in the second half when Morlan decided to put Ernstes at forward.
“I scored my first career goal, which is crazy,” Ernstes said. “I never thought that would ever happen.”
Katie Beam got the ball, and she kicked it ahead. Ernstes used her speed to jet past a defender and kicked it into the net. When she watched it on film, she couldn’t help but notice the coaches going crazy, jumping up and down.
The play was her career highlight with the Pirates.
She anticipates also playing defense for Manchester, but will adjust if they move her to another spot.
Ernstes recalls when a college fair took place in the gym during her freshman year. To earn extra credit, she took a picture at one of the booths. She chose the Manchester booth, even though she had no aspirations of going there.
“Then I ended up picking Manchester because their campus is very nice and they’re very welcoming,” Ernstes said. “The coaches contacted me one-on-one and I got to go and see what I’m up against. Their programs are really great and they have exactly what I need education wise.”
Ernstes plans on studying criminology and wants to become a police officer. She has family on both sides who have gotten into trouble with the law and have been mistreated, she said.
“I really want to be there and help people who feel like they’ve been wronged,” Ernstes said. “It feels like the right path for me. I feel like I’m a very helpful person and I would love to see myself in that career.”
Most schools Ernstes was in contact with knew she ran track, and it just worked out that she’ll be able to play soccer at Manchester as well.
Manchester is a private Division III school. Brian Cashdollar is the school’s track coach, and Christine Johnson coaches soccer. They weren’t able to attend the signing ceremony or comment about Ernstes because of being a DIII school, Cashdollar said.
In addition to playing three sports, Ernstes somehow finds the time to work two jobs: at Midtown Diner in New Point and at Jimmy John’s.
When she’s not playing sports or working, she enjoys hanging out with friends and going out to eat.
Ernstes is the female representative for Be The Wall. It’s sponsored by the Greensburg Prevention Group, which selects young people committed to living a life against unhealthy choices such as drug and alcohol abuse.
Tekulve said Ernstes would’ve been selected based on her character and leadership skills.
“She is just an all-around great young lady!” Tekulve said.