Friday, February 8, 2019

Another Female First !!!

2019 has been a great year so far for breaking down barriers and crushing records! 
Coach keeps up with our alma mater's sports team much more than I do and he's been in awe of this student-athlete since she first burst on the scene as a middle-schooler.  The girl has wheels and is definitely going places (in life, not just on the track).  Remember this 16-year old's name:  Katelyn Tuohy.  
She began setting age-group records in the 7th grade, retiring marks set by earlier high school phenom, Mary Cain.  Here are some highlights of Katelyn's incredible career to date: 
  • By the 2019 indoor track season, she had won four Gatorade Player of the Year awards and was the 2018 Track and Field News High School Girls Athlete Of The Year.
  • She first took 32 seconds off the historic Van Cortlandt Park course record, in the Bronx, with 13:21 for the 2 1/2 mile/4 kilometer event.
  • She won the 2017 Nike National cross country championship as a sophomore, to cap an undefeated season. With a 5,000 meter time of 16:44.7, she won by 40 seconds, trimming 12 seconds off the race. The Rockland County legislature honored her victory, declaring December 19, 2017, as "Katelyn Tuohy Day."
  • She became the fastest US outdoor high school 3,200-meter runner of all-time, running 9:47.88.
  • She also set the U.S. national junior (under-20) indoor 5,000-meter record. On January 21, 2018, Tuohy ran 15:37.12 to become the best ever female indoor 5,000-meter high school runner. Her 9:09.71 for 3,000 meters, run in June 2018, is the second fastest U.S. outdoors time ever in the country by a high school girl.
  • On June 17, 2018, at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals Track & Field championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, Tuohy won the mile by over 15 seconds breaking Polly Plumer's 36-year high school outdoor mile record with a 4:33.87.
  • On September 22, 2018, at the Ocean State Invitational, Tuohy ran the fastest American girls cross country 5K ever with a time of 16:06.87, lowering the course record by 88 seconds, and leading her team to victory.  Her time clipped almost 17 seconds from Katie Rainsberger's 2016 best-ever high school girls' standard on any course, running faster than all but one of over 1,000 high school boys running the sandy course, that day.  
  • On October 19, her 16:45.4 broke her own Bowdoin course record, set in 2017 while winning the state federation championship. The next fastest girl ran 19:07.9.
  • On November 23, she won the 5K New York State XC Championship/Nike NY Regionals, in 17:14.0, by over 40 seconds. 
  • On December 1, 2018, despite her missing her state section championship race with knee tendonitis, a few weeks earlier, she repeated as Nike's Cross Nationals Individual Champion. Notwithstanding muddy conditions, she set a new course record time of 16:37.8.
  • On January 26, 2019, finishing third in the 3,000, against seven pros, she broke another high school indoor record with 9:01.81.
  • During her sophomore year in 2017-2018, she won both the Gatorade Female Cross Country Player of the Year award and the Gatorade Female Track & Field Player of the Year award, making her the first athlete ever to capture the award in two sports, then she won the overall Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year award. Her photo was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, that summer. 
  • In October 2018, she was honored as the Track and Field News High School Girls Athlete Of The Year.
  • In 2019, she repeated as the Gatorade female cross country awardee for her undefeated 2018 season.
  • In a move that surprised no one, Gatorade honored junior Tuohy again February 7, 2019 naming her its U.S. high school girls cross-country runner of the year for the second straight year.
  • The 16-year-old repeated this fall as New Balance Cross Nationals girls champion
  • She also broke the national record for a high school girl running a 3.1-mile cross-country race on grass. Her record-setting time was 16:06.87, run at the Ocean State Invitational in Rhode Island.

Amanda Turak, manager of Gatorade's player of the year program, characterized Tuohy as unique due to the "unbelievable amount of passion and humbleness she has."  And Tuohy cited teammates, family, school trainers and coaches for helping her, saying "everyone had been a piece of the puzzle in getting this award."
The Gatorade award is based on achievements, as well as academics and character. Gatorade, which launched the player of the year program in 1985, had previously never awarded more than two player-of-the-year awards to a single individual.
Tuohy grinned when asked about being the first three-time member.  "Making history is definitely something special, so I think it's one of the most, you know, coolest things, I guess you can say, I've ever done," she said. 
Tuohy, who carries an "A" average, was honored in North Rockland High School's library in front of a crowd that included administrators, coaches, multiple members of the boys and girls cross-country and track teams, and her parents, Denise and Patrick, and brother, Ryan, 11.  Her parents smiled when asked about their daughter's growing enormous collection of trophies, medals and other running awards. Her dad noted he has built shelves in her bedroom to house the lion's share.

Tuohy would like the collection to grow. A video was shown of some of her wins and of her intense cross-training (she swims and works out with weights, in addition to running). Tuohy said after seeing the video, "I had little chills going up and down my spine and it makes me want to go out and train harder."
"After getting (the Gatorade award) this cross-country season, I definitely want to work hard this upcoming track season and next cross-country season and hopefully win again," Tuohy said. 
Her spring track coach, Kyle Murphy, who was on hand, said the most surprising thing about Tuohy has been her consistency. He attributed that to her work ethic, adding, "I don't see that stopping."
Currently in the middle of a winter track season that has seen her break the U.S. girls indoor 3,000 standard-track mark, Touhy was also Gatorade’s female high school track & field performer last year.
North Rockland girls cross-country and winter track coach Brian Diglio had worried about how Tuohy would respond this fall to essentially competing against her previous accomplishments.
“Every time she raced she was being compared to her sophomore campaign,” he said. “I was really proud of what she did this year. More than anything else, she showed maturity.”
Diglio pointed to Tuohy winning her second Nike Cross title, saying his and Tuohy’s first reaction to that was “just a big sense of relief.”  “To handle that the way she did, I was super proud,” he said. “It was every bit as hard, if not harder, to win this year.”  Of her undefeated season, he added, “Not only do you need talent and drive but you also need good health and for everything to go in your favor.”
But Tuohy went undefeated despite knee tendinitis that kept her out of the Section 1 Class A Championships. Her team, though, still won the team title to qualify for States, where Tuohy repeated as individual champion.  She said the knee injury was a "little battle mentally and physically." With all the wins and records she accumulated in the fall, Tuohy said she was most proud of how she came back from the injury to win Nationals.
The national spotlight first shown on Tuohy when, as an eighth-grader, she anchored North Rockland’s distance medley relay team to an indoor national title in what was then a national-record time.  But it has shown much brighter in the years since as she has amassed wins and national records.  While she “doesn’t mind the limelight occasionally,” it’s not something she seeks and has nothing to do with why she runs, Diglio indicated.  “Running is still a joy for her. It’s still the favorite part of her day,” he said.  And that will likely remain the case long-term.
In 2018, Tuohy's remarkable potential fostered New York Times speculation on her future. Diglio, who is also her advanced placement U.S. History teacher, has endeavored to keep Tuohy in check while guarding her progress. “My role so far has been to try to put the brakes on, so she doesn’t do too much,” he said. “She has an unbelievable work ethic; I’ve never seen anything like it." He feels her academic diligence is as important as her athletic accomplishments.
Tuohy is taking three AP courses, in physics, computer science, and U.S. history—which is taught by Diglio. “I have him first period, so I can’t come in late for school,” Tuohy deadpans. “That’s a little bit of a bummer.” She tries not to let her homework cut into her sleep, and Tuohy said she gets to bed as soon as it’s done each night.
A shy person, Tuohy has at times found the spotlight to be difficult. But this year she’s handling it better, her coach said. “At times it can get to her, because there is a lot of it, there is a lot of attention,” Diglio said. “She’s really good. She takes pictures with tons of kids, she’ll sign autographs, do the interviews. It’s a lot to ask of a high school kid. “The big change that I’ve seen in her this year really is her maturity,” he continued. “Last year I felt that at times it got overwhelming for her. And this year, that’s barely happened at all. That’s impressed me so much.”

Tuohy agrees. “It’s nice to see people who recognize my success and want to take pictures and everything,” she said. “They always have nice things to say. Sometimes when I’m trying to warm up or mentally prepare (for a race), it’s a little difficult having people come up to me and everything, but it’s all positive.”

Last year, North Rockland was hit hard by snow, and the runners on the team shoveled the track five or six times. Boys and girls, Tuohy with them, and their coach gave them hot chocolate afterward. This year the weather has been milder. But Tuohy’s favorite part of each day and week is still when she’s a regular kid at practice, hanging out with her teammates.

Observers of track know it can be difficult for high school phenoms to keep improving consistently as they move on to college and beyond. Other fast high school girls, like Cain, who signed with Nike after she graduated and never raced for a college team, have had trouble achieving the same level of success they did as teens and suffer from burnout or injuries.
But what alternative is there?
Once a week, Tuohy runs a 10-miler. She usually does it alone on the roads around the school, although if her older brother is home from college, he’ll keep her company. She prefers cross-country season, when she can do her long runs on trails, but it’s always one of her favorite workouts of the week. Her coach says it’s good for her training—and her head.
“She’s a tremendous talent,” Diglio said. “She’d be a tremendous talent if I just had her jog 20 miles a week and still put her out on the track. She’d put up fast times. What are we supposed to do? When she runs a race, tell her, ‘You’ve got to jog; you can’t race?’”   His overriding goal in coaching her, he said, has been her safety and well-being, with the goal of passing her on to college and having her develop further at the NCAA level than she has in high school.
“I also don’t think that there’s a whole lot you can do about it other than trying not to overrace her and trying not to work her out too hard,” Diglio said. “At the same time, she wants to be great. If you have an athlete with a burning desire to be a great athlete, it’s your duty as a coach to try to help them achieve their goals.”
Tuohy wants to run in college and plans to start visiting schools this summer.  Then she'll have one final season of high school cross-country and two of high school track.  "I'm excited to see what comes next," Turak said, echoing the thoughts of many.

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