- Zofia Dudek, a senior from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, won Saturday’s Foot Locker Cross Country Championship. Her 5K winning time of 16:45 was six seconds shy of the course record.
- Josh Methner, a senior from John Hersey High School in Mount Prospect, Illinois, won the boys race in a time of 15:08.8.
Kicks to the finish and dominant race tactics highlighted the 41st annual Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in San Diego. Midwest region runners Zofia Dudek and Josh Methner tore through the historic 5K course at Balboa Park to win the girls and boys national titles on Saturday.
Dudek, a senior from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, fought off a late surge from Marlee Starliper to win the girls race in 16:45, just six seconds shy of the course record in her first national championship. Methner ran unchallenged for more than half the race to win his first Foot Locker title one week after placing second at Nike Cross Nationals.
The championship began with an exciting battle in the girls competition where the runners competed for titles as well as records from the gun.
In an effort to improve on her runner-up finish from 2018 and 2017, Katelynne Hart established a blistering pace, which strung out the field early. She led the competitors through the first mile in 5:09 before fading slightly when Dudek and Abby VanderKooi caught her around 10:30.
Flying through the 2-mile in 10:43, Dudek, Hart, and VanderKooi continued to pick up the pace with Starliper running close behind. Just after the split, Starliper caught the top group.
On the final hill, a battle between Dudek and Starliper started to take shape. When Dudek attempted to drop her Northeast region competitor on the incline, Starliper responded with a surge of her own and crested the hill in front. But Dudek fought back by passing her with 350 meters remaining and held her lead all the way through the finish line.
“I’m super happy,” Dudek told Carrie Tollefson on the Foot Locker XC broadcast. “I didn’t know I was capable of that.”
Starliper, a senior from Northern York High School in Wellsville, Pennsylvania, finished second in 16:46.8, improving on her 13th-place finish from last year. And VanderKooi finished third in 16:55.2, which culminated in one of the fastest top three girls finishes in Foot Locker Championship history.
Dudek’s winning time is just six seconds shy of Melody Fairchild’s 16:39 course record set in 1990. The Stanford-bound runner was returning from a fifth-place finish at the U20 European Cross Country Championships in Lisbon, Portugal on December 8.
The boys race started at a more conservative pace with most of the pack running together through the first mile in 4:48. Shortly after the mile marker, a top group of five formed when Carter Solomon charged ahead.
Just after the mile, Methner surged past his competitors—Solomon, Graydon Morris, Patrick Anderson, Evan Bishop, and Judson Greer—while using the momentum of the downhill portion on the 1.5-mile loop. For the remaining two miles, Methner continued to put distance between himself and the rest of the field.
By the time Methner hit the 2-mile in 9:43, he was five seconds ahead of the chase pack with no signs of slowing down.
When Methner came into view on the straightaway toward the finish line, he ran unchallenged for the title and crossed the finish line in 15:08.8.
“It was up in the air what I was going to do but going down the downhill, I felt good and decided to push it then and see who could go with me,” Methner said of his tactics on the Foot Locker XC broadcast.
Eight seconds after Methner crossed the line, Solomon followed for second in 15:16.9. Anderson closed for third in 15:18.
Methner, a senior from John Hersey High School in Mount Prospect, Illinois, improved on a sixth-place finish at the 2018 Foot Locker Championships. On December 7, he finished second to Nico Young at Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon.
Methner and Solomon will both be attending the University of Notre Dame next fall.
Taylor Dutch is a freelance writer living in Chicago.