A knee injury took away any chance her transition from high school national track and cross-country star to collegiate runner would be seamless.
But Katelyn Tuohy, the 20-year-old North Carolina State sophomore, whose incredible performances while a North Rockland runner elevated her to the cover of Sports Illustrated, is clearly her old self.
Tuohy, whose performance helped NC State win its first national Division I women’s cross-country championship last fall and who finished second in the indoor NCAA women’s Division I 5,000-meter and 3,000-meter races, is now an NCAA track champion.
Tuohy, the top seed, won the NCAA women’s Division I outdoor 5,000-meter race at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field Saturday.
Tuohy finished in 15:18.39, the third fastest time ever logged in that race at the NCAA championships.
Tuohy, a three-time national high school cross-country champion whose enormous talent was surpassed only by her enormous work ethic, may prefer other distances on the track, but she’s long familiar with the 5,000.
As a 15-year-old in 2018, she ran an indoor 5,000 in 15:37.12. That time drew national attention since it not only set a new U.S. girls high school record but also broke the U.S. girls junior (under age 20) record and was a world record for 15-year-olds.
Saturday’s race wasn’t a sure thing until late in the race.
Tuohy, who still holds multiple indoor and outdoor high school records. including the girls outdoor mile (4:33.87), took an early lead but fell back to second behind Florida freshman Parker Valby about three-quarters through the race.
But with less than two laps to go, Tuohy retook the lead, then pushed ahead with a kick familiar to local high school track fans, who saw her start running for North Rockland as a seventh-grader.
More Tuohy firsts: Ex-North Rockland runner Katelyn Tuohy breaks US junior women’s 3,000-meter record
Wolfpack national title: Katelyn Tuohy finished 15th to help NC State win its first NCAA cross-country championship
A flying 15-year-old: North Rockland’s Katelyn Tuohy sets U.S., world record marks at Virginia Showcase
Although she glanced behind each shoulder in the homestretch to check on Valby, potentially losing a little time, she hit the finish 1.71 seconds ahead of her.
Tuohy’s time was 3.31 seconds off the meet mark.
At 4:06.84, Tuohy, who’s now the first Rockland County resident to ever win an individual Division I NCAA track championship, also won the ACC women’s 1,500 this spring with the fastest time clocked by a collegian this year.
Tuohy has qualified to compete in both the 1,500 and 5,000 at next month’s USA Track and Field Championships. But in a televised interview after Tuohy’s win Saturday, NC State women’s coach Laurie Henes indicated Tuohy will run only one of those distances, although no decision has been made about which that will be.
Nancy Haggerty covers cross-country, track & field, field hockey, skiing, ice hockey, girls lacrosse and other sporting events for The Journal News/lohud. Follow her on Twitter at both @HaggertyNancy and at @LoHudHockey.