#1 - Tuohy Torches Manhattan Course Record
It's been a whirlwind year for New York Track and Field, and behind much of that excitement has come from Katelyn Tuohy (North Rockland). The sophomore sensation had a breakout year, setting a National Record at 5000m, as well as HS-Only National Records in the Outdoor Mile and 2-Mile distances. She took down the State Meet Record in both the 1500m and 3000m at the Spring State Meet, and for the 1500m Indoors. She's a National Champion for the Mile Outdoors and the 2-Mile Indoors. Only a 10th-Grader, she cemented herself as one of the best track runners of All-Time, ready to chase Cain's State Records and Overall National Records in the years to come. However, while she may be one of a very select few on the track, there was one place where she was truly one of a kind.
It may seem like an eternity ago, but Katelyn Tuohy first broke onto the scene on the Cross Country trails. Simply put, she put together the greatest prep XC Season by a single athlete. And while there were races before, and plenty races after, no single race defined the sophomore campaign she would have, like the Manhattan Invitational.
Entered in the Varsity C race, and not the coveted Eastern States competition, Tuohy shot out from the gun. To some, it wasn't a surprise. They had seen that tactic play out well at Bear Mountain earlier in the year, when she smashed the Bear Mountain Course Record. But for many, they still didn't know what Tuohy could do. She was a strong runner the year before, for sure, but hardly the headlining act she would become. Another course record at the Grout Run, in an impressive time for sure, gave another glimpse into the burgeoning Tuohy, but all courses had been 3-miles and under. Was she a track runner, who could sprint well over the shorter distances, or was it something else?
Into the woods she went, way ahead of the filed. Powering up the back hills, she didn't slow her pace. Lone in her venture, she would continue to accelerate, and cruised through the backhills, and back over the bridge. With 1000m to go, she popped out from the tree cover, onto the finishing straight. Those at the finish looked at the in-progress clock, and couldn't believe the time.
It was something you would more likely see out of the boys race. The course record was surely in jeopardy. The Manhattan Invite is one of the oldest meets in the country, races having been run there for over a century. Numerous National Champions, both team and individual, can look to the meet as a stepping-off point for their post-season victories. Only four girls in that history had ever broken 14mins for the 2.5 mile course, each one of them comprising the best of the best in their states history. Carly Seymour (Central Cambria) did so for PA in 2007. Nicole Blood (Saratoga) and Aisling Cuffe (Cornwall) were busy representing New York. And back in 2015, Jess Lawson (Corning, NY) had set the most recent Course Record, running a 13:53.9 to improve the prior record by just over a second. Her record would survive the following year, when a new winner took home the Eastern Title, a freshman named Katelyn Tuohy, running 14:12.4 for the win.
Flashback to the present, and that same athlete was almost sprinting down the finishing chute. The clock read 12:30, with a little over 300m to go. The crowd was on notice. The clock ticking away, and Tuohy getting ever closer. It was now a question of how much would the record go down, not simply a question of if it would. Never letting up the gas, Tuohy threw her arms up, and crossed the line. Running through the tape, she turned around to see. The announcer would make the revelation for her: 13:21.8.
For those Coaches who had been around for over 40 years, the time was inconceivable. For athletes of the day, many of the boys were wondering if even they had run that fast in their race. Tuohy finished nearly a full minute ahead of the next best girl from any race, and leveled the Course Record to a nearly untouchable mark. One could only imagine what could happen next year, when Tuohy is a junior, or even the year after that. Not once could any respected scholar of the sport suggest that a female athlete could be in the realm of breaking 13-mins at Van Cortlandt Park before, but that's the new reality brought out by the age of Tuohy. How low can she feasibly go?
The rest of Tuohy's XC is stuff of legend. She would go on to shatter the Bowdoin Park Course Record, running 16:52.40, when no one was ever expected to come close to breaking 17mins. She re--broke her Bear Mountain record by another 30-seconds, dropping it down to 15:55.30. And of course, she would take home the NXN National Title in Record Breaking fashion, beating the field by 40-seconds, running a 172 Speed Rating to boot. Not only did she end the season undefeated, she did so without anyone ever finishing within 40 seconds of her all year. It had been unprecedented.
Katelyn Tuohy is the type of athlete we've haven't seen before. Originally, it was the worry that Tuohy was a Track Athlete who was running XC, winning the short-course races in record time. But in actuality, it was the inverse that was true. Tuohy was, really, the first true XC Runner that also ran track. Her metronome-like consistency demonstrated power over speed. It was perfectly suited for the longer races, where gear changes are rarely needed if you can simply outlast the field at your own pace. Tuohy was shattering Meet Records for the 3000m and 2-Mile all year, yet never needed to break 2:08 for the 800m, and rarely splitting under 2:10-2:12. Not since Jordan Hasay had there been an athlete who could dominate in XC, and then do the same on the track. It was a big reason Tuohy eventually became the first athlete to ever win the Gatorade Athlete of the Year for two separate Sports (Track & XC).
There are contemporaries of Tuohy on the track, but we've never seen anything like her before in XC. She set 7 venue course records in a single season. With two more years to go, anything is possible. We may finally see that sub-13min VCP time that nobody could have expected just 9 months ago. Bowdoin Park could go even lower. And we might just see Tuohy become the first athlete to ever win NXN and Foot Locker Titles whilst still in HS. But nothing can take away from that 2017 Manhattan Race. It was the launching point into history, the delineation between great athlete, and greatest. And for that, it earned out Top Moment of the 2017-2018 season.
Full Race Video