By Tom Mauldin 8/24/2021
In 2019, Nadia Chernich traveled 100,000 miles to play softball and baseball. She played on the east and west coasts. She played in Texas. New York, Arizona, California, Utah, Maryland … the Northwest, the Northeast.
Chernich has been named a Team USA All-American multiple times (2018-2019-2020-2021) and has been profiled by MLB. She was part of back-to-back world championships playing against South Korea, Australia, Japan, Mexico and Canada in girls baseball.
Chernich played both varsity baseball and softball last year and her teams recorded state tournament successes. She also plays tennis, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, track and field, runs cross country and competes in Nordic Skiing.
Most recently at the Fastpitch Northwest College Exposure Tournament in Chehalis (WA) she led her team to the Underclass championship and was named Most Valuable Player in three of her team’s five games.
Chernich completed her freshman year in high school with a 4,0 grade point average. As an eighth grader, she recorded a 24 on her first ACT test.
All the aforementioned is impressive for any 15-year-old student athlete. Making Chernich’s accomplishments even more amazing is that she lives in North Pole, Alaska, a small community four miles east of Fairbanks.
Whoa … back up the story for a second. North Pole? Where the motto is ‘where the spirit of Christmas lives year round.’
Yes. Fast forward again. Santa does live in Chernich’s hometown, in the Santa Claus house where children's letters are received from around the world and answered during the Christmas holidays. The city has candy cane-striped street lights lining Santa Claus Lane and St. Nicholas Drive, not to mention a 45-foot-tall Santa welcoming visitors.
Yes, there are reindeer in Santa’s corral.
Take a deeper look at North Pole:
• In winter, sunlight is around three hours a day;
• in summer, there’s midnight sun with less than three hours of darkness;
• Summertime highs rarely top 70;
• Wintertime highs rarely reach double digits;
• The record low in North Pole is 60 below.
When many are asked about Alaska, they think about glaciers and icebergs. And, yes, Santa and North Pole.
“It gets challenging at times,” said Chernich, who dreams of playing college softball. “But I never get tired … I just run out of time. Playing sports and school are fun for me.”
A typical mid-winter day when light is limited, Chernich’s indoor workouts include “a lot of open gyms … an hour for baseball, then softball, followed by basketball and volleyball. With a cross country race to follow.
“Most workouts start at 6 a.m.,” said Chernich, the daughter of Dr. Joseph and Dr. Bethany Chernich. “It’s a small school and everyone understands we are crossover athletes.”
She noted that her school’s primary sports are hockey and basketball and when daylight is short, she spends a lot of time in the weight room and on the batting tee.
“But honestly, when I think about my schedule and sports I have no idea how we do it. It’s insanity to me that my parents can do what they do and then do it again the next day. But I like school and I like sports. My friends think it’s crazy.”
This perhaps explains her motto: A loss is worth a book, a win is worth a page.
As extreme as it may seem to some, Chernich’s hard work is paying off. Her best home to first time is 2.78, her top exit speed is 72 mph and her overhand throw is 66. Like her three younger siblings (Anya, Lev and Ki), she bats left and throws right. She’s known for her power. And her intensity is nearing legendary status with or without the northern lights.
Joseph Chernich, who doubles as her father and varsity baseball coach, simply says, “She takes practice seriously and prepares for game situations intensely. Nadia works hard in the weight room to be stronger and faster every year. She takes feedback on her weaknesses and works to get better.