* The NXR Midwest represented one of the deepest individual fields to date
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Two nationally-ranked runners were toe-for-toe in the final stretches at NXR Midwest in Terre Haute, Indiana.
And in that moment you sensed that Hart, ranked No. 3 in the country, wanted her fourth straight title, even as she let Dudek, the No. 5 athlete, form a slight gap in the final straightaway on the LaVern Gibson course.
Hart never gave in, much like she never gave in at Foot Locker Nationals a year ago.
But then Dudek, finding another breath, matched her speed. And the Michigan resident and dual-international from Poland found just a few more lengths to blaze toward the finish, setting a new meet record on the course in 16:49.30. Hart was six-tenths behind in 16:49.9.
Dudek, still uncommitted collegiately, was consistent from start to finish and found redemption in this race after failing to qualify for NXN a year ago, where she was ninth.
But coincidentally enough, it might be her final cross country race against domestic talent. She told MileSplit afterward that she will likely (unofficially at this point) pursue running for Poland at the European U20 Cross Country Championships in Lisbon, Portugal, on December 8.
The incredible girls finish finish set the stage for another NXN Regional on Saturday, the uber-talented Nike Cross Nationals Northwest Region in Eagle, Idaho.
There, defending champions Evan Holland of Ashland (OR) High School and Sydney Thorvaldson of Rawlins (ID) High School ran away from the crowd for big wins, both meet records. Thorvaldson smashed her previous best on the Eagle Island Course, dropping an impressive 5K in 16:50.60, which was 34 seconds than her win in 2018. She earned her highest speed rating of the season, hitting 160 for the first time in her career.
Holland, following his meet record at the Oregon State Championships last week, did the same at Northwest, posting a final and meet record time of 15:02.90.
The Oregon recruit, ranked No. 4 in the MileSplit50, has been close to untouchable this season, winning six straight meets. His victory on Saturday gave him a 196 speed rating, which was just three points shy of his 199 a week prior.
Back in the Midwest Region, Hersey's Josh Methner made his championship race look downright procedural, as the No. 5 ranked athlete went on to cruise to the finish in a winning time of 14:47.7, picking up a 196 speed rating.
All five boys runners out of the Midwest -- Caleb Brown, Mhalicki Bronson, Evan Bishop and Jack Spamer -- picked up speed ratings over 192 and qualified for NXN. Another, Brendan Favazza, was just a second off fifth-place and was the first one out.
But the real story was what happened in the team race.
Wheaton Warrenville South, which finished as runner-up in its IHSA Class 3A State Championship, ran out of its mind and picked up a decisive victory, scoring just 75 points.
York, which finished third at state, was second overall with 128 points, picking up the last automatic-qualifier.
That left St. Charles East, considered by many the best team in Illinois, on the outs and looking for an at-large. But considering the team's strength of schedule and performance, it seems possible that the Saints will come away with one by Decision Day.
Meanwhile, in the girls championship race, No. 3 Beavercreek was upset by No. 11 North Naperville, which used a tighter compression to help displace Creek's No. 5, which finished 146th. Both qualified for NXN.
Out in the Northwest, the nation's No. 1 team, Summit, ran roughshod over its competitors, finishing with an 18:02 average and 59 points. All five of its scorers finishing inside the top 30.
North Central, which received a huge boost with the re-addition of Allie Janke, was second overall and had four of its runners in the top 29.
Kamiakin's boys qualified for NXN for the third straight season and picked up its second straight win at NXR Northwest, beating Portland Jesuit and Franklin (OR).
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Current Nike Cross Nationals Girls Team Qualifiers (In Order of Place):
Current Nike Cross Nationals Boys Team Qualifiers (In Order of Place):
Heartland: (HR) Mounds View (MN), (NR) Stevens Point (WI)
Midwest: No. 25 Wheaton Warrensville South (IL), No. 8 York (IL)
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Current Nike Cross Nationals Individual Girls Qualifiers:
1. Meghan Ford, Jamestown (ND) -- Buffalo City Run
3. Marie Hostetler, Mid-Prairie (IA) -- Unattached
4. Analee Weaver, Stillwater (MN) -- Stillwater XC
5. Anna Fenske, Farmington (MN) -- Tigers
6. Kora Malecek, Onalaska (WI) -- Team Sty-U
Scored Auto-Team: 2. Kate Sperka, Muskego -- Muskego XC
1. Zofia Dudek, Ann Arbor Pioneer (MI) -- Purple Track Club
2. Katelynne Hart, Glenbard West (IL) -- West Glenbard
4. Tatum David, Richland County (IL) -- Unattached
5. Erin Strzelecki, Fort Wayne Dwenger (IN) -- Los Santos
6. Annalyssa Crain, Edgewood (IN) -- Unattached
Potential Add: (Dudek may decline invitation for European U20 XC): 7. Zoe Duffus, Fort Wayne Carroll (IN)
Scored Auto-Team: 3. Taylor Ewert, Beavercreek (OH) -- Creek Strong
1. Sydney Thorvaldson, Rawlins -- Unattached
3. Kate Peters, Lincoln (OR) -- Red Bird RC
5. Mattalyn Geddes, Twin Falls (ID) -- Unattached
6. Chloe Foerster, Portland Jesuit (OR) -- Stumptown
7. Julia David-Smith, Issaquah (WA) -- Fly Eagles Fly
If Jesuit Scores At-Large: 9. Sage Brooks, Hellgate (MT) -- HKXC
Scored Auto-Team: 2. Fiona Max, Summit (OR) -- Storm Over Bend
Scored Auto-Team: 4. Allie Janke, North Central (WA) -- North Spokane
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Current Nike Cross Nationals Individual Boys Qualifiers:
1. Nicholas Scheller, Chanhassen (MN) -- Chanhassen Storm
2. Oliver Paleen, Saint Paul Highland Park (MN) -- Highland Park RC
3. Ryan Kinnane, Andover -- Andover
4. Max Murphy, Pleasant Valley (IA) -- Pleasant Valley
5. Shuayb Hussein, Wayzata (MN)
1. Josh Methner, Hersey (IL) -- Arlington
2. Caleb Brown, Shelby (OH) -- Unattached
3. Mhalicki Bronson, Defiance (OH) -- Unattached
4. Evan Bishop, East Grand Rapids (MI) -- Unattached
5. Jack Spamer, Brighton (MI) -- Unattached
1. Evan Holland, Ashland (OR) -- Lithia Distance Project
2. Nathan Green, Borah (ID) -- Lions XC
3. Aidan Palmer, Franklin (OR) -- Mount Tabor
4. Wil Smith, Lewis and Clark (WA) -- South Central
6. Tristian Merchant, Anchorage Christian (AK) -- Unattached
Scored Auto-Team: 5. Issac Teeples, Kamiakin (WA) -- Brave Souls