San Diego-Bound: Pennsylvania Will Be Well-Represented At Foot Locker Nationals

It's Foot Locker Nationals time!

Pennsylvania is sending a strong contingent to the Golden State. Three girls---Marlee Starliper (Northern), Savannah Shaw (Upper Saint Clair), and Taryn Parks (Greencastle-Antrim)---and one boy---Rusty Kujdych (Neshaminy)---are making the trip to San Diego for the final XC meet of the season.

Who are these Cali-bound four? Learn a little bit more about each below; how they got here and what we expect to see on Saturday!

Marlee Starliper (Northern)

How She Got Here: 1st at Foot Locker Northeast (17:47.50)

Her Resume: The sophomore ran to the win at Foot Locker Northeast, continuing her undefeated season. She won at Ben Bloser, Carlisle, District 3, and then the AA state title---each coming in commanding fashion. That set the stage for her win at Van Cortlandt, where she held off New York's Katherine Lee for the win. She ran a 16:50 at Carlisle, which is one of the nation's fastest of the fall.

Nationals Outlook: 2017 has seen Starliper take a giant step forward from a strong state medalist to one of the best in the nation. She said FLNE was her first true "race" of the season, and Saturday will bring her an even more competitive race. Claudia Lane (CA) is the odds-on favorite, but Olivia Theis (MI), Rebecca Story (TN), and Katelynne Hart (IL) will also be strong. It will be interesting to see how Starliper stacks up against these girls, but there's no doubt this will be her most competitive race of the season. With plenty of girls there to push her, there's no telling just what she can do until we see the race. 

Savannah Shaw (Upper Saint Clair)

How She Got Here: 6th at Foot Locker Northeast (18:14.70)

Her Resume: The NC State recruit has had a strong season that included wins at the Red, White, & Blue Classic, the PIAA Foundation Invitational, and Mingo Classic. She took second at WPIALs and then third at states. She went 18:14 to place sixth and earn the trip to San Diego.

Nationals Outlook: Saturday will be a homecoming for Shaw, who was born in California. She will cap off a cross country career that saw her gradually improve each season. Her consistency has shown through and she will be in the mix to finish in the top half of the race at Foot Locker.

Taryn Parks (Greencastle-Antrim)

How She Got Here: 10th at Foot Locker Northeast (18:25.60)

Her Resume: After her season got off a slow start, Parks got going at the right time. She won the Mid-Penn Conference Championship, took third at the District 3 Championships and then third again at states in AA. At Foot Locker Northeast, Parks earned the tenth and final nationals qualifying spot.

Nationals Outlook: Parks is the only Pennsylvania returner from last year's Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego, She was also the only ninth grader in the field last year. She took 40th place in 2016, but with more experience, Parks can definitely improve upon that. She's proven to be a good racer time and time again, and we should see that again on Saturday.

Rusty Kujdych (Neshaminy)

How He Got Here: 8th at Foot Locker Northeast (15:51.30)

His Resume: Few Pennsylvanians can say they've had as successful of a season than Kujdych. After taking fifth at a loaded PTXC9 against a powerful Loudoun Valley squad (which won NXN), the Neshaminy senior earned wins at Briarwood, Foundation, and took second at Paul Short to fellow FL qualifier Dalton Hengst. He placed fourth at Manhattan, and then went into the postseason, winning the SOL National crown, the District 1-AAA title, and the AAA state crown. It was a season for the ages capped off by an eighth place finish at Van Cortlandt.

Nationals Outlook: Kujdych said Foot Locker Northeast was more about just qualifying. He's raced the best-of-the-best this season and never backing down from a challenge. That experience will come in handy against a loaded Foot Locker field. Kujdych, a Georgetown recruit, could certainly find himself battling with some big names and he knows how to handle himself there. A spot in the top half of the field, and maybe the top 15 is in the cards.