Two athletes followed very different roads to doubling up on gold medals in distance events at the 2018 outdoor States championship at Cicero-North Syracuse, but for all the dissimilarities between North Rockland's Katelyn Tuohy and Northport's Elijah Claiborne, there were also some likenesses. Both went to States as at least nominal favorites in their individual events -- for Tuohy the 1500m and 3000m, for Claiborne the 800m and 1600m -- and both had been part of a championship relay team in past New Balance Outdoor Nationals. Tuohy had bagged an outdoors Nationals win as an 8th grader in 2016 as part (1600m) of the Red Raiders' champ distance medley relay squad, and Claiborne had run on the Tigers' state and national champion 4x800m team in 2017 while also contributing a leg (1200m) to the 2nd place DMR team at NBON.
But whereas Claiborne was still running a little bit under the radar in his senior year in 2018, Tuohy was already nationally known phenom as a sophomore after winning the NBON mile in 2017 as a freshman and then capturing the NXN championship the previous December and taking the indoor Nationals win in the 2 mile after winning the indoor States 1500m.
Claiborne was in the midst of a breakout senior season, but he ran in a very closely attached shadow of his twin brother Isaiah who generally had slightly faster times in the long distances and had been flown out to the Brooks PR invite in Washington to compete against the nation's best in the 800m on the same weekend as States. One distance in which Elijah had recently surged well ahead of Isaiah though was the 1600m after posting a 4:11.47 time at the Section 11 State Qualifier, and he was also the top seed at States in the 800m due to a 1:52.24 2nd place time behind Isaiah at the St. Anthony's Invite where the Friars' Matthew Payamps had posted the state's third best time. But for both Claibornes the focus was often more on Northport's relay teams, and a week after States they would help the Tigers smash the state record in the 4x800m while taking a repeat title at Nationals.
The main questions about Tuohy'a chances in first the 3000m on Friday and then the 1500m on Saturday was whether her legs could handle the load. Though she had by far the best seed times coming in off her two huge runs at the Section 1 State Qualifier, she was still facing the 2017 Nationals 2 mile champ Kelsey Chmiel of Saratoga in the 3000m. At a States championship that had often had brutal competition in the girls distance events through the years and had thwarted even Bronxville's Mary Cain and Cornwall's Aisling Cuffe from getting the 1500-3000 double, the last runner to accomplish the twin-killing had been Roslyn's Emily Lipari ten years before. Still, after a season in which Tuohy had already smashed the national record in the 3200m at Loucks, there were many more top marks to shoot for.
For Tuohy though, 2018 States was all about sheer dominance. She simply blew away the field in the 3000m on Friday with a 9:09.71 (the video will be posted in the near future) that set a meet and sophomore national class record and is the second fastest NY time ever only to Cain's national record at 2014 World Juniors as a pro. Rather than looking at all stressed in the 1500m on Saturday from her massive performance the day before, Tuohy was again flying away to a 4:14.45 time that crushed Cain's States meet record and is the fastest ever by any NY athlete not named Cain. A week later Tuohy set the national outdoor record in the mile while repeating as champion at NBON with a time of 4:33.87.
For Claiborne the first tester came in the 800m on Friday. Running in 2nd at the end of the first lap, he moved to the lead with about 500 meters to go and then opened it up around the final turn to win comfortably with a time of 1:52.33 in a highly competitive event that saw eight guys go below 1:54.00. Though neither of Claiborne's wins were as dominating as Tuohy's, he also showed that he still had the legs to run big in the 1600m on the second day. Claiborne used pretty much the same tactics he had done in the 800m as he stayed up among the leaders including second seeded Aiden Smyth of Walt Whitman for 3 1/2 laps before racing away to win by more than a second in a PR of 4:10.01.
Though a few guys such as Corning's Kevin Moshier in 2017 and Fayetteville-Manlius's Nick Ryan in 2012 had captured the 1600m\3200m double and John Jay - Cross River's Eion Nohilly got the 800m and 3K steeplechase at outdoor States, Claiborne became the first runner ever to take the 800m/1600m Federation double, a feat that had just eluded Liverpool's Zavon Watkins in 2012. Baldwinsville's Don Paige is the only one to do something similar, but his double in 1976 was at the 880 yard and mile distances.
We will give only brief reference to Elijah Claiborne's final action of the day where a premature celebration at the end of 4x800m likely cost the Tigers a state championship. We'll just say that Isaiah Claiborne's return from Brooks propelled the run to a repeat title at Nationals but that the state record time may have needed a little extra boost from the fires of redemption. Elijah led the Tigers with a 1:50.10 leg at NBON, and his big surge in the third spot put his brother into the lead for the anchor leg.