Natalie Ardis was strongly considering attending Anderson University after she graduates from Wilson Hall in a few weeks. After the opportunity to run cross country and track and field at the NCAA Division II school came her way, it was a no-brainer.
"I had visited Anderson and I really felt like it was the right place for me," said Ardis, who signed with the Upstate school on Wednesday. "When I found out I would get the chance (to run cross country and distance events in track) that sealed the deal for me.
Ardis has been running distance events on the WH girls track team since she was in the seventh grade. However, she just started running cross country in her junior year.
"(Wilson Hall cross country head) Coach (Tom) O'Hare kept trying to get me to run cross country," Ardis said. "I finally decided to give it a try."
As a junior, Ardis finished 40th individually in the SCISA 3A state meet. This past season, she finished 28th overall, which was second on the Wilson Hall team.
O'Hare thinks Ardis has the potential to improve immensely at Anderson.
"She's new to this sport," O'Hare said. "She just started running her junior year. She's not one of those that when you first see her you're going to say, 'Oh, good, she's one of those runners that's going to make the team better.
"What makes Natalie good though is she does what you ask her to do," he added. "And she does it in a quiet, cooperative manner. They (the Anderson coaching staff) will see that immediately. They know a lot more about the sport than me and I think she will just get better and better."
WH track coach Rip Ripley pointed out Ardis' devotion to improving herself.
"We had a practice over our spring break, and Natalie was one of three varsity athletes there,: Ripley said. :That was no surprise. Then we had a meet on a Saturday when she was taking the ACT. When she finished, she got to the meet so she could run in one more race after taking a 4-hour test. That's the devoition she has."
Ardis is just happy for the opportunity.
"I've been working really hard," she said. "Anderson is a nice place and I'm super excited to get the chance to compete in college."