COLUMBIA — She was born in Israel. Her father is from Russia. Her mother is from Ukraine.
By the time she was 5, Hickman cross-country runner Galit Rudelson, whose name means "Little Wave" in Hebrew, had lived in two countries, on two continents, and in three U.S. states.
Her father, who was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, traveled a lot, trying to find a place to work that he enjoyed. He met Rudelson's mother and they traveled to Israel, where Rudelson was born.
The family moved to California when Rudelson was 3, then lived briefly in Texas. Finally, they settled in Missouri, where they have lived since Rudelson was 5.
It's hard to tell that Rudelson was born in Israel. She acts like any American high school student, albeit a gregarious one, and doesn't speak with any sort of accent, though she is able to speak both English and Russian.
"The reason I don’t have an accent is that I didn’t start talking until I was 4,” she said. "When I finally started talking, though, I started talking in full sentences."
Rudelson is still linked to her birthplace in the most basic way. She is still technically an Israeli citizen.
"So I'm obviously still tied to Israel," she said.
She can become a U.S. citizen either by both of her parents becoming citizens or by applying herself when she turns 18. Her father attained U.S. citizenship less than a year ago. Her mother has applied and hopes to be naturalized soon, so it shouldn't be long before Rudelson is officially an American.
Rudelson still has family in the countries that form her roots. She visits her grandmother on her father's side in St. Petersburg every year.
Asked about the town of St. Petersburg, she admitted that she was already thinking about cross country.
"There was no place to run. That’s the first thing I noticed. No one could ever run anywhere. It’s kinda like a big city, so that’s why,” she said.
She also has a grandfather on her mother's side that lives in Ukraine, but she has never met him. Her family considers the area too dangerous to for Rudelson or her little sister Dina Rudelson, who is 13, to visit.
"We’re not going there until we’re older and can protect ourselves a little more," Rudelson said.
Rudelson's path to the Hickman cross country team is almost as long as her journey to Missouri.
Her first sport was gymnastics. Her parents put her in gymnastics when she was 4 after seeing how much energy she had.
"I was all over the equipment, our school stuff and my home stuff, like couches and everywhere. More hyperactive than any child they know. So they put me in gymnastics," Rudelson said.
She quickly found that she had a talent for the sport, and has stuck with it for the past 11 years. She trains at the Tiger Academy of Gymnastics at Hearnes Center. She has performed well in competitive matches, and is now the academy's only Level-9 gymnast and she said things have become a lot more difficult.
"Level 8 and lower I’d been doing top couple places. Level 9, I kinda moved up a little earlier than I should have," she said. "But it was more getting to the higher levels than getting the higher scores."
After realizing in eighth grade that she was "kinda fast," Rudelson ran track for Smithton Middle School. She continued in track in her freshman year at Hickman, though she didn't run cross country that year.
In her freshman track season, she was in the top four in hurdles in the district meet which advanced her to sectionals, where she wasn't expected to really compete. She ended up finishing fourth in sectionals, which advanced her to the state meet.
Coach Steve Kissane said it definitely took him by surprise.
"On paper she's not one of the top four," he said. "It's pretty cool that she responded to the challenge."
Rudelson is also an impressive pole-vaulter. She has bettered the school record in practice, so a record-setting performance in a meet seems inevitable.
After her successful freshman track season, she decided to start running cross country her sophomore year.
"I got a bunch of friends from track and they told me I’d probably be good at distance running. So I tried that out, and I like it!" she said enthusiastically.
Rudelson credits her gymnastics background for being able to transfer from her sprint-based track events to an endurance sport like cross country.
"I definitely got a lot of discipline from gymnastics. A lot," she said. "And I am a lot stronger than a lot of people. And I have a really high pain tolerance because of gymnastics, so it lets me get the endurance thing down faster."
Rudelson still trains for gymnastics every night after her cross country practices. She usually goes straight from Hickman to the Hearnes Center, and trains until 8 p.m.
"And I’m in two AP (classes), four Honors (classes), so… It’s crazy," she sad. "It’s a chaotic life."
Rudelson also insists her grueling athletic schedule doesn't affect her schoolwork or grades.
"Gymnasts usually acquire the nice, good ability to be able to do all homework, no matter how much there is, in about two hours," she said with a smile.
Kissane appreciates her work ethic and dedication to everything she does.
"It’s nice to see a kid with that zest and enthusiasm for challenges, whether it’s in the classroom or out here," he said.
Rudelson said she has more of a problem with having nothing to do than having too much to do, as evidenced by when she had to rest an injured leg last season.
"I did really bad with that much free time, and I had no idea what to do. So I’m pretty good with no free time," she said.
Pretty much every aspect of Rudelson's life is multi-faceted, as evidenced by her multi-national family, grueling athletic schedule, and upper-level classes.
Kissane says that this lifestyle is exactly how Rudelson wants it.
"She’s realizing that she’s got one shot at this," Kissane said, "and she’s going to bite off all she can and experience all the neat things that we have to offer here."