When Katelyn Tuohy hits the finish line this weekend at the 2022 Toyota USATF Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, whether she’s first or well back in the pack, she’ll have had a very successful sophomore year for NC State.
Most likely, she said, she’ll run the 5,000 meters, a race contested Sunday, the final day of the four-day meet, although she could compete in the 1,500.
The meet is a qualifier for next month’s World Athletics Championships, which will be held at the same location.
Tuohy, who won the women’s NCAA Division I championship at 5,000 meters on the same track earlier this month, would have to finish top three and cut her time to 15:10 (her personal best is 15:14.61) to qualify for worlds.
But, unlike in high school, where failing to win often drew as much dismay, analysis and forecasts of impending athletic demise as her record-setting performances sometimes drew over-the-top exclamation, there’s no expectation Tuohy will win or secure a spot on the U.S. worlds team. Her top 5,000 time is 13th best among American women this year.
In fact, regularly facing much more talent, the Tuohy-is-automatic mindset and resulting astonishment when she doesn’t win are gone.
And that has made collegiate running a treat for the 20-year-old North Rockland High School grad.
“There’s so much more competition,” Tuohy said. “The pressure is not all on me. I’m not expected to win every race, which is nice.”
Sophomore is champion: Katelyn Tuohy, former local high school national track star, wins NCAA women’s 5K DI title
Wolfpack national title: Katelyn Tuohy finished 15th to help NC State win its first NCAA cross-country championship
In fact, COVID and injury recovery the beginning of her freshman year proved a blessing of sorts, diffusing, at least to some extent, the hype.
“With COVID going on, a lot of people were not racing. (I could) escape the pressure a little bit. It followed me but it was definitely easier not being home,” she said, describing the running community at NC State as big and talented.
With classes that fall online and practice limits installed due to the pandemic, the beginning of her freshman year was anything but traditional.
Unrelated, Tuohy’s running was also not the same.
She had knee surgery in June 2020 and said she couldn’t fully train until late November or early December of that year.
Tuohy, whose multiple high school records include the outdoor mile at 4:33.27, ran a personal-best 1,500 of 4:12.55 that following spring at the 2021 ACC outdoor championships.
That was after she ran a couple of indoor track races in February and then, in March, ran in the COVID-delayed NCAA cross-country championships, where she finished third on her team and 24th overall out of 253 runners to help lead the Wolfpack to a second-place finish.
But Tuohy said, “I was still missing that base.”
She didn’t feel at full strength until last fall.
While obviously pleased with notching her first individual NCAA championship with her 5,000-meter win, she pointed to last fall’s team cross-country championship as her top collegiate moment — one she describes as “surreal.”
Tuohy, who first drew wide attention anchoring a then-national-high-school-record-setting distance medley relay for North Rockland High as an eighth-grader, finished 15th out of 250 Division I runners and second on her team.
But the important thing was her team’s performance.
In front of a big crowd in Tallahassee, Florida that included the school’s women’s soccer squad, which was in town for a game, the Wolfpack won their first ever NCAA women’s cross-country team championship.
Explaining how that win outweighs her recent individual 5,000 victory, Tuohy said, “I got to share it with my best friends.”
Those friends all overcame some adversity to run in that race, she added.
“It’s just a moment I’ll get to cherish forever. It’s hard to put into words how special it was,” Tuohy said.
More Tuohy firsts: Ex-North Rockland runner Katelyn Tuohy breaks US junior women’s 3,000-meter record
After this weekend’s race, she’ll take a break, then do what she has always done and “put (her) head down and get to work,” training for fall cross-country.
Tuohy, who has always been known for her love of training and loves it particularly with her Wolfpack teammates, since their speed allows someone to always push someone else, said the goal of winning cross-country nationals again will be on her team’s mind.
But Tuohy, who’s studying business and was an academic All-American this year, as well as All-American in cross-country and in track, said the team will continue to follow its “day-by-day” approach to the season.
And, while that season is still months away, it’s clear she’s already looking forward to it.
Noting competing in college has exceeded her best expectations, Tuohy said, “I love this team. … I’m definitely having fun here. It’s definitely a fun experience.”
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.