Judy Pendergast helped put Naperville North Cross Country and Track & Field on the map. Find out where she is now in this segment, presented by Molly Maids of the Aurora Naperville Area.
Following a state championship season in 2014, Naperville North girls cross country entered the 2015 season with hopes of bringing home another state trophy. To achieve that feat, the Huskies would need senior leader Judy Pendergast to continue her improvement as a runner after a 7th place finish at state in 2014 and a state championship performance in the 3200 during the track season. But Head Coach Dan Iverson and the rest of the cross country world had no idea what Pendergast had in store that fall.
A change in diet due to allergies to gluten and dairy, finally allowed Pendergast to run to her full potential, and as it turns out, that potential was record breaking.
Judy began winning races in the fall by huge margins, shattering course records along the way. At the prestigious Naperville North twilight invite, she set the course record which still stands to this day with a time of 16 minutes and 16 seconds. She cruised through the DVC, regional and sectional championship races, finishing in first place in all three. But her masterpiece was the state meet at Detweiler Park in Peoria. On the state’s biggest stage, Judy Pendergast became the first girl to ever break the 16 minute mark, winning the 3A meet with a time of 15:53.8 seconds.
On the national state, Judy set another course record while winning the Nike Cross Country Regional, before finishing in 8th at the National meet and 4th at the Foot Locker Nationals.
Once it was time for the indoor track season, records continued to fall as Pendergast broke the indoor 3200 record with a time of 10:11:56 and in the 1600 at 4:49:30. Despite injuries curtailing her outdoor track season, Judy’s legacy in the state of Illinois was secure.
In the fall of 2016, Pendergast headed to the Ivy League, where she ran track and cross country at Harvard University, earning first team all Ivy League honors in both sports. She played a key role in the Crimson winning the Ivy League Cross Country Championship for the first time since 1985. She also had the best time in the NCAA for a freshman in the indoor 5,000 meters at 15:52.64. After a successful freshman campaign, Pendergast transferred to the powerhouse University of Oregon program for the fall of 2017 after a coaching change at Harvard. Oregon finished in 5th place at the NCAA Cross Country Championship meet.
A coaching change at Oregon brought Judy Pendergast is back to Cambridge with the Harvard program, where she finished as the team’s top runner in the Harvard-Yale Dual meet in September. Who knows how long her records will stand in the state record books or what running competitions the future holds, but the prestigious Naperville North track and cross country programs will never forget the generational talent of their former star.
Check out other stories like Judy’s in our Athlete Profile!
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