Purcellville, Va. — Woodgrove High School senior Sophie Hudak has made a commitment to continue her running career at James Madison University starting in the 2019-2020 school year.
“I picked JMU because the moment I stepped foot on the campus, it felt like home,” the 5-foot-3 Hudak said. “I visited a lot of schools during my recruitment process, and I just kept feeling that something was missing, until I got to JMU. Everyone on my overnight was so friendly, from the staff, the team and the students; they all made me feel so welcomed on campus.”
While Hudak ultimately decided on James Madison because of how it made her feel, the school’s business school and strong alumni network also helped push her to JMU.
“JMU has one of the best business schools on the East Coast, where the staff works to individualize the curriculum based on each individual student and not try to shove each student into a mold,” Hudak said. “The business school is also currently under redesign to make it even more competitive.”
While the JMU College of Business continues to improve its competitive curriculum, the Division I Dukes’ cross country and track teams continue to battle their way through the competitive Colonial Athletic Association. On October 26, the Dukes placed fifth in the CAA cross country championship.
“I feel that in college I will be able to compete in many different events that I don’t have the opportunity to compete in in high school and that maybe not as many girls compete in – due to being longer events,” said Hudak, who plans to run cross country as well as the 5K, 10K, and steeplechase at James Madison. “I think this will help the team to get enough points to win our conference meet and place well in the regional meet.”
Growing up in Round Hill, Hudak never thought she’d be a Division I runner. She started swimming competitively when she was seven years old and only started running when her mom encouraged her to tryout for the Woodgrove cross country team before her freshman year.
“The summer before my freshman year of high school, my mom told me that I should join the cross country team. I told her maybe, with no intention of actually doing it,” Hudak said. “My parents got in contact with the coaches, and they said it was fine if I wanted to join the team in August, after my swim season wrapped up.”
As the summer came to a close, Hudak continued to tell her mom she was thinking about going out for the team, but in reality, she still had no plan to do so. Then at the final meet of the summer swim season, Hudak ran into a family friend who also happened to be a senior on the Woodgrove cross country team.
“All I remember was telling him that I was going to be there the week after I got back from vacation. After that, I knew I had to do it because I was petrified if I didn’t, my friend and his senior friends would get mad at me,” Hudak said. “It took until my second week, when I completely fell in love with the sport that I realized this is what I want to do.”
Since trying out her freshman year, Hudak has turned in some of the top performances in Loudoun County. In 2018, Hudak ran the eighth fastest time in Loudoun and finished tenth in the VHSL 4A State championship on November 10.
“My experience running for Woodgrove has been phenomenal. I have the best coaches, the best teammates, all the teachers are so supportive and our principal goes to almost every meet and always asks us how we are feeling before races,” Hudak said. “I have met so many amazing people both at Woodgrove and other schools. I can’t even begin to express how thankful I am to Coach Burns, Coach Kauren, Coach Sherry and Coach Staneart for creating such a supportive environment and allowing us to grow as student-athletes and people.”