Freshman Justyna Mudy wins individual track national title
The two words that best described Shorter’s men’s and women’s track programs during 2008-2009 year were young and talented. No one epitomized those words better than Lady Hawks’ distance runner Justyna Mudy. The redshirt freshman from Poland, set St. Louis, Mo., ablaze by taking the 3,000-meter steeplechase national championship at the 2009 NAIA National Outdoor Track and Field National Championships.
Not only did Mudy capture the school’s first female individual national crown, she did so in an NAIA record time of 10:12.31, smashing the previous event top mark of 10:18.96, set in last year’s national meet.
Mudy was the only athlete, male or female, to set a new NAIA record.
“It was a historic moment,” said Shorter track and field coach Scott Byrd, who was named the Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year for both men’s and women’s outdoor track after guiding both squads to conference championships in 2009. “Justyna’s win has helped accelerate the women’s program both from a recruiting standpoint and team attitude towards pursuing a team national championship.”
Her efforts earned her the honor of the meet’s Most Outstanding Performer and helped secure the Lady Hawks a seventh-place finish at nationals, the program’s first top-10 finish and highest ever at the national event. “Everyone was totally shocked – not that [Justyna] did not deserve it, but no one was expecting to hear her name called out,” said Byrd about Mudy receiving her Most Outstanding Performer recognition. “I wish I had a picture of her expression at the moment they announced her name over the public address. The one thing that sticks out in my mind was the joy and excitement I saw in her teammates.”
Upon her arrival at Shorter, Mudy initially made her mark not on the track, but on the trail. Competing for the Lady Hawks’ cross country team in the fall, Mudy was named Southern States Athletic Conference Runner of the Year after leading her team to a second-place finish at the conference meet with a dominant performance, winning the 5k event by more than a minute with a time of 17:22.63. Mudy followed up with a third-place finish at the NAIA National Cross Country Championships in Kenosha, Wis., crossing the line just four seconds behind the second-place finisher. Mudy earned All-America status for her efforts.
“She is a fearless competitor, extremely disciplined and a true team leader,” Byrd said. “One of her strongest characteristics is her relationship with [distance coach] Jay Stephenson. She has committed herself to his guidance and expertise both in track and cross country.”
Mudy’s individual success during the spring outdoor season was a microcosm of the tremendous team accomplishments enjoyed in 2009. She was one of 13 Lady Hawks to win an individual title and set at least one new conference record at the conference meet, taking the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 10,000-meter league crowns.