SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, December 14—Having endured an immense travel itinerary in recent days, it appeared partway through the Foot Locker Girls battle that favored Zofia Dudek (Pioneer, Ann Arbor, Michigan) had left her legs at baggage claim. Instead, the international vet ramped up the jets one final time to deliver a first-class performance in one of the most exciting finishes in meet history.
Dudek, our No. 5 All-America in the mile last season, commandingly bolted into the lead with a quarter of a mile to go on the Morley Field layout but required a decisive burst with seconds remaining to fend off a final stubborn bid from Marlee Starliper (Northern, Dilsburg, Pennsylvania), 16:45.0–16:46.8. Along with fellow Michigander Abby VanderKooi (16:55.2), Dudek fronted the fastest triumvirate finish in the meet’s 41-year history.
“I had to put all the [travel concerns] behind me and just believe in myself,” said Dudek, who placed 5th for her native Poland at the European Juniors in Portugal a week ago, then made the 5000M return flight home in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, only to take another 2300M sojourn to San Diego 2 days later.
But Dudek’s sheer power was the difference on the double-loop, 5000m test, featuring its signature challenging climb on each circuit. “The hill was a bit difficult, but I thought I recovered quickly,” said Dudek, a Stanford commit. “I think the race in Portugal prepared me well for that since that course was pretty much all hills. I had a little bit of fatigue. My legs weren’t as fresh as they could be.”
All along, however, she was more than content to bide her time, letting others do the work until it was her time to strike. “My strategy was just to stick with the front pack for the first lap and actually most of the race and then give it everything at the end.”
Dudek expected Katelynne Hart (Glenbard West, Glen Ellyn, Illinois), runner-up each of the last two years, to be her main challenger. But Hart struggled on the big hill, giving Dudek the added confidence down the stretch. Starliper, however, emerged as the true challenge by establishing a new gear along the final halfmile in setting up the dramatic finish.
In the end, Dudek proved too much, saying, “To be able to race for my country and then come back to win here allowed me to reach my biggest goals.”
The best of the NXN/Foot Locker doublers was Taylor Ewert, who claimed 6th here after being the NXN runner-up.
FOOT LOCKER GIRLS RESULTS
1. Midwest 24; 2. Northeast 42; 3. South 63; 4. West 120.
1. Zofia Dudek’ (Midwest) 16:45.0; 2. Marlee Starliper (Northeast) 16:46.8; 3. Abby VanderKooi (Midwest) 16:55.2; 4. Katelynne Hart (Midwest) 17:14.4; 5. Jenna Hutchins (South) 17:16.1; 6. Taylor Ewert (Midwest) 17:16.4; 7. Sydney Masciarelli (Northeast) 17:19.4; 8. Carly McNatt (South) 17:32.6; 9. Kate Wiser (Northeast) 17:35.9; 10. Tatum David (Midwest) 17:37.8;
11. Karrie Baloga (Northeast) 17:40.3; 12. Annalyssa Crain (Midwest) 17:43.8; 13. Juliette Whittaker (Northeast) 17:48.9; 14. Analee Weaver (Midwest) 17:49.9; 15. Alyssa Hendrix (South) 17:57.4; 16. Jenna Goldberg (Northeast) 17:57.8; 17. Riley Stewart (Midwest) 17:58.4; 18. Audrey DaDamio (Midwest) 17:59.0; 19. Avery Clover (South) 18:01.2; 20. Bethany Graham (South) 18:03.0;
21. Kelsey Harrington (South) 18:04.0; 22. Margot Appleton (Northeast) 18:07.3; 23. Ava Dobson (South) 18:08.2; 24. Sofie Matson (Northeast) 18:12.1; 25. Anna Martin (West) 18:12.6; 26. Skyler Wallace (West) 18:15.2; 27. Nicole Vanasse (Northeast) 18:20.5; 28. Daniella Santos (Midwest) 18:23.7; 29. Valerie Lastra (South) 18:30.3; 30. Grace Ping (West) 18:30.3;
31. Landri Wilcox (South) 18:34.6; 32. Dalia Frias (West) 18:45.0; 33. Sofia Abrego (West) 18:45.7; 34. Carly Corsinita (West) 18:48.6; 35. Camille Napier (South) 18:49.3; 36. Ella Borsheim (West) 18:53.7; 37. Abby Kendrick (West) 18:53.7; 38. Cate Joaquin (West) 19:13.8; 39. Mia Barnett (West) 19:32.4; 40. Taryn Parks (Northeast) 20:00.5. ◻︎