Nov. 21, 2009
Vancouver, Wash. - In sports, nothing is ever guaranteed.
With that being said, Shorter College harrier Justyna Mudy may be the closest one can come to a sure thing.
The diminutive, redshirt sophomore from Poland added to her already impressive resume by capturing the medalist honors at the 2009 NAIA Cross Country National Championships presented by Nike at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Vancouver, Wash.
The national championship is her second individual title, following up her individual national crown in the 3,000 meter steeplechase at the 2009 NAIA National Outdoor Track and Field Championships in St. Louis, Mo., last May.
"I am just so happy," said Mudy, who finished third in the 2008 NAIA Cross Country National Championship meet in Kenosha, Wis., last season. "Last year was my first time being here and I took third. The weather here today was exactly how I wanted it to be and the course was great."
Mudy crossed the line in a time of 17:30, 21 seconds ahead of pre-meet favorite Jacky Kipwambok of defending national champion Azusa Pacific, who also finished in the runner-up slot in last year's national meet. Azusa Pacific placed fifth as a team.
Mudy's performance boosted her team to a 19th-place team finish out of the 32-team field. It was the first season that the Lady Hawks had qualified for the national championships after they placed first in the NAIA qualifying meet in Nashville, Tenn. on Nov. 6.
"I didn't really know how far ahead of the pack I was because I just wanted to keep looking forward and run fast," Mudy said. "I am so proud of my teammates who were with me today."
Sarah Massey placed 39th overall in a time of 19:22. Amy Worthy (20:27) finished 121st, Kaitlin Shaw (20:30) placed 128th and freshman Paulina Sarat rounded out Shorter's top five with a 158th-place finish in a time of 20:57.
"This team has been working so hard and so consistently for several years and their work paid dividends on the course today," said Shorter head coach Jay Stephenson.
Since coming to Shorter from Kennesaw State University in 2007, Mudy has been nothing short of spectacular for Stephenson and the Lady Hawks.
After garnering Southern States Athletic Conference Runner of the Year honors after finishing first in the conference meet in 2008, Mudy repeated as SSAC Runner of the Year this season, topping the qualifying meet field by well over a minute.
Mudy pulls double duty with the Shorter track team in the winter and spring months, and last year - her first year competing for the Lady Hawk track team - Mudy set nine indoor and outdoor school-records while also taking the steeplechase title in an NAIA record time. That championship was Shorter's first-ever female individual national title.
"Justyna has such a strong faith in God to be her guide when she races," Stephenson said of his national champion. "That showed today when she stepped out in faith and took the lead with a big move on the last two kilometer loop and opened up a 50 meter gap that only got wider as the race went on."
Cal State-San Marcos took the team title, placing three runners in the top-28 en route to 137 points. It was the school's first national championship in just the program's 10th year. Biola (140) and Malone (163) placed second and third, respectively.