Erin McMullen AhartErin (McMullen) Ahart went several places where no Salem Community High School girl runner had ever gone before and in many case have gone since during her cross country and track career.

Ahart will always hold the distinction of being the only girl to win four North Egypt Conference individual cross country championships, as that league disbanded in 2003. When Ahart won the first four of those NEC titles in 1996 as a freshman, she did so by establishing a new Salem Bryan Park Course record with a time of 12:06. Ahart had to be at her best that day because teammate Trisha (Hustedde) Richards also broke the course record.

Ahart’s other NEC cross country titles came at Carmi in 1997 with a time of 12:51, at Fairfield in 1998 with a time of 13:34 and finally at Olney in 1999 in a time of 15:54, which marked the first year girls courses were lengthened from two to two and a half miles. Led by Ahart, the Lady Wildcats won the NEC championships in 1996, 1997, and 1998.

Ahart competed in the Class AA state cross country meet during all four years in high school Salem qualified as a team during three of those years. As a freshman in 1996, Ahart was fifth at the Troy Triad Regional and fourth at the Centralia Sectional to lead Salem to team championships in both meets. She ended the year with a 107th place finish at the state meet, as Salem took 19th as a team.

Led by Ahart’s seventh place finish at the Centralia Regional, Salem defended its regional title at Centralia in 1997. Ahart was 14th at the Decatur Sectional race, as the Lady Wildcats finished third as a team and earned another trip to state. When Ahart helped Salem to a 19th place at the state meet, she set a new school standard at the state race for the best place (54th) and best time (12.33).

Ahart accomplished some more school history in 1998 when she became the first Lady Wildcat runner to win an individual regional championship, as she took home the title at Mt. Vernon with a time of 15:21 and led Salem to a third regional title. Ahart was ninth at the Centralia Sectional, as a second place team finish earned Salem another trip to state. Ahart improved her girls school record for best place at the state race when she finished 38th in a time of 15:07 and the 15th place finish by the Lady Wildcats was also the best in school history.

Ahart’s fourth and final trip to state in cross country came as an individual in 1999, as she was third at the Salem Regional, 23rd at the Centralia Sectional and 125th at state when she was Salem’s only qualifier.

Ahart’s success was not just limited to cross country. During her freshman track season in 1997, Ahart broke the SCHS record in the 3200 meters with a time of 11:48.2 and also set a new NEC record with a 12:16. As a sophomore Ahart qualified for the Class AA state meet in the 3200 meters and finished 29th with a time of 12:16. As a sophomore Ahart earned another trip to state in the 3200 meters in 1998 and improved her finish to 20th in a time of 11:49. Also during her sophomore season Ahart set new SCHS indoor records in the 1600 meters with a time of 5:37.1 and the 3200 meters at 12:21.8. She also teamed up with Stephanie Helton, Trisha Hustedde and Megan Grizzle to set a new SCHS indoor record in the 3200-meter relay with a time of 10:38.3.

After graduation from SCHS, Ahart continued her running where she competed for Murray State University and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.

At the time of her induction, Ahart was working as an elementary school teacher.