Keeping track of runner Tess Ehrhardt

Tess Ehrhardt in the Flames Atheltic Center

Ehrhardt also plays soccer but finds running more satisfying. “Anything you do, it’s all you,” she says. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services


When it comes to women’s events in cross country and track at UIC, there’s never been anyone like Tess Ehrhardt.

This remarkable runner holds nine school records in track and field and two in cross country. The only event in which Ehrhardt competes that she doesn’t hold the record for is the outdoor 1,500-meter race.

Her favorite run is the outdoor 5K. “I love cross country because it’s outside, and the 5K is kind of the standard distance for women,” she said. “I’m just comfortable with it.”

Ehrhardt has also played soccer, but finds running to be more satisfying. “You have more control over your individual success, or failure,” she said. “Anything you do, it’s all you.”


Tess Ehrhardt

Tess Ehrhardt has 11 school records in track and field and cross country. Photo: Steve Woltmann

She started running at age 8 or 9, taking part in road races with her father — “nothing too competitive.” In middle school, she took up cross country.  “It was the only sport available for sixth-graders,” she said.

She kept running at Geneva High School, where “I was not the best on the team, but we did really well.” The team won the state title twice and placed fourth and fifth other years.

Ehrhardt says running cross country at Geneva High was a lot of fun. “The atmosphere — I haven’t seen it anywhere else,” she said. “There are a lot more fans [than in college]. The energy is really good at a high school cross country meet.”

A senior majoring in kinesiology, she has a full-ride athletic scholarship at UIC.

She’ll work as a prosthetics and orthotics practitioner after she earns her master’s degree — preferably at Northwestern University “because I want to stay in Chicago.” If not, she could pursue her master’s at schools in California, Washington, Connecticut, Georgia or Texas.

Ehrhardt lives in a residence hall on campus. “A big thing for me is making my own food,” she said. “I did eat dorm food my freshman year, and it’s the most unhealthy I’ve ever felt. Some of it’s good — the salad bar, and they’ll make you a sandwich —but there’s also pizza and cake.”

She loves making ceramics and pottery and playing the piano.

“These are things I’ve not had time for with school and running,” she said. “It’s worth it to sacrifice for now, but these are things I want in my life; I want to pick them up again.”

This year Ehrhardt is exploring Chicago, starting with her race training. “The coach sends us for a run — ‘Go run for an hour’ — and I like to find a new route,” she said. “The lakefront gets kind of boring when you do it over and over.”

Ehrhardt is an admirer of the Belgian street artist ROA. One of his murals can be seen in Pilsen —  “I’ve taken the team down there,” she said. With a teammate, she found another of his works.

“We couldn’t find it on a run, but I heard you could see it on the [CTA] Brown Line,” she said. “We came to the last stop and there it was. I got really excited. It was cool to find.”

She plans to seek out more of his art when she and her family visit Europe over Christmas. “I really like his stuff,” Ehrhardt said. “He does animals. It doesn’t look like graffiti.”

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