#6 - The Deepest Girls Race In Van Cortlandt History
Van Cortlandt Park may be the oldest, continually used Cross Country on the East Coast, maybe even further out. Run on competitively for over 100 years, female athletes joined the party a little more recently, but still, the legacy of the course is unrivaled. Traditionally run as a 2.5 mile layout, the course now plays home to the Manhattan Invite, held the second weekend in October, annually. The meet serves as the largest one-day meet in the Country, generally bringing in 11,000 runners from over 300 teams. Despite all that acclaim, and all that history, the Course Records stand strong. And by pure happenstance, both the Boys and the Girls have a magic barrier to chase after, elusive to but only the very best. For the boys, that numbers is 12mins flat, where only two athletes have dipped under. And for the Girls, that number is an even 14mins. Only five girls had broken that mark in Course History. Five Girls, that is, until the Eastern's Race in 2020.
The race was destined to be fast. The Course Record Holder, and our choice for Top Moment of 2018, Katelyn Tuohy (North Rockland) was making her first foray into the Eastern's State Race. Alongside her, two other athletes from the Top 6 at NXN the previous year, and another from the Top 12. The starpower was aligned, and many were making the assumption, given how fast Tuohy was two years prior, the race could possibly see another record go down. The day started out with an impetus. Freshman Karrie Baloga (Cornwall) opened up the Letter Races with a fast time, 14:22, forcing the pace of the seeded race if they wanted to come away with the merge win. The field lined up, and the gun went off. Tuohy led from the gun to the wire, but this would not be her moment. Hers would come later in the season. For what streamed in after her, set history.
As the leader pulled away, a trio of Girls were matched up against eachother. Claire Walters (Fayetteville-Manlius) and Brooke Rauber (Tully) were no strangers. Both hailed from Section 3, the Central New York Region best known for their powerhouse status in Cross Country at the National Level. Splitting the pair was Lea Hatcher (Morgantown, WV), an outsider looking to lead her team to a possible victory. Across the bridge the first time, all three were even, putting in their paces in tandem. Walters and Rauber had the history. Over the past four years, Walters had edged Raubers 10-times to Rauber's 5. But it had always been close. Each race was a toss up, and Eastern's was no different.
Into the backwoods, and Walters opened up a three second gap. Nothing a short surge couldn't cover, but enough of an opening for the other two challengers to fall back. Trailing close behind, and pulling a large pack with, was Sophomore Charlotte Bednar (Lawrenceville, NJ) a rising star and NE Regional Winner the year prior. The hunt was real.
By the time the leader returned to the bridge, the race had been decided. Tuohy had a gap that couldn't be surmounted. By Walters was in sight, and Rauber there too. Hatcher had dropped off, unable to hold Rauber's pace, and Walters was leading still by a slim six-second margin. It was a sprint to the finish.
Tuohy would cross the line in 13:33.2, still the second fastest time ever run on the course, second only to her superlative effort two years prior. A big sprint down the finish chute earned Walters some more distance, her crossing in 13:45.9. Rauber came in soon after, cresting the line in 13:52.1. Bednar had separated from the pack, but just missed dipping under, to hit 14:01.4. Hatcher would round out the Top 5 with a 14:07.9, just four seconds off the winning time from the year before.
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So let's dig in to what that all means. Before Katelyn Tuohy came along in 2017, the Course Record stood at 13:53.9, set by Jess Lawson (Corning) in 2015. It had taken 8 years for someone to crack the previous Course Record, and even then, Lawson only did it by two seconds. Before that, Nicole Blood (Saratoga) broke the record in 2004. The Record Blood broke? It was set in 1984 by Erin Keough, at 14:01.9.
Three Girls dipped under Lawson's Course Record in 2020. Tuohy, in addition to her first Eastern's States Title, took down the Senior Class Record on the Course. Rauber, took down the Junior Course Record on the Course, which was Lawson's overall Course Record. Walters, if not for Tuohy, would have broken Lawson's Course Record by 10 seconds. Bednar, if not for Tuohy, would have broken the prior Sophomore Course Record by seven seconds. And for Walters, her team would win, tying the Record for Total Wins at the Invite at 10 total.
Down the line, it was the fastest time ever for 1st Place, 2nd Place, 3rd Place, and more, through 7th Place.
Simply put, it was the best Female Race at VCP in History, and our Moment #6 of 2020.