The little village of Hartland has a chance to be represented in the 2016 Olympics as Hartland High School senior Avery Evenson will begin her training with the Elite Triathlon Academy (ETA) at the University of Colorado- Colorado Springs in January.
With a chance to earn her spot on the Olympic team, a big smile flashes across the face of the 17-year-old as she considers the idea of future Olympic viewing parties held in Hartland just to watch her race.
“That would be awesome,” Evenson said laughing. “Hopefully by then they’ll show coverage of the triathlon at a normal time.”
The talented athlete who represented Hartland as a swimmer and runner throughout her high school career will be graduating four months early to become the newest member of the elite Olympic training team. Avery will be training with just nine other selected young athletes for her chance to represent the United States in Rio de Janerio.
The triathlon sport is still new to the standout athlete who was encouraged by her mother to compete in the higher-level races after winning her first triathlon in Chelsea this past summer.
“She (Mom) asked me if I had fun doing it,” Evenson said. “So she found this elite triathlon series for juniors that was a qualifier for Nationals.”
After qualifying for Nationals in Iowa, Evenson and her family were on their way to the 2012 Junior Elite Nationals where the Hartland teen placed fourth in only the third triathlon of her career.
Catching the attention of ETA director Keith Dickson, Evenson was invited to come tour their facility and was offered a place in their program. She was then faced with making a choice between two of her dreams since the 17-year-old had also already been accepted to the United States Naval Academy.
“It was the hardest decision,” Evenson said. “I’ve always wanted to go to the Naval Academy and it’s still an option if I decide this isn’t something I don’t want. But I had to go give it a try.”
Choosing to train at the Olympic facility offers Evenson a chance to fulfill her girlhood dream of competing for her country and also the opportunity to see just how far she could go in the sport.
"It's so fun," she said. "And it combines all of my passions."
It’s also a way for the senior to continue her training after being sidelined this past month because of a hairline fractures in her foot, which prevented her from competing in her final meets at Hartland for cross country and swimming,
“It was hard,” she said. “I wanted to go support my team (cross country), but I just couldn’t.”
Leaving her family, friends and high school early will also be hard as well, but Avery says she is ready to move on and excited about the future in front of her. And it's the advice from people like her Dad and running coach Matt Gutteridge who told her to keep focusing on "one day at a time" that has helped her achieve her goals.
The senior who contributed to the success of many of her high school teams is leaving behind a legacy, several school records and the advice to "work hard" to all the young, aspiring athletes.
“I never thought when I was younger that I would have all this,” she said. “But I worked hard every day and this is what I got out of it.”