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NC State's Katelyn Tuohy letting her national title sink in

NC State star junior distance runner Katelyn Tuohy didn’t have to think about what she had to do.

Tuohy had Florida redshirt junior Parker Valby well out in front to chase down, and she did it Saturday to capture the NCAA Championships individual title. She set a course record in windy Stillwater, Okla., with 19 minutes, 27.7 seconds, with Valby second at 19:30.9 and junior teammate Kelsey Chmiel third with 19:37.1.

“I wanted to catch Parker by the time I hit that sharp turn to the uphill,” Tuohy said. “I used that uphill to gap her a little bit and finish strong in the downhill finish.

“I don’t think it has sunk in. After each race, I just go on to the next. I want to keep running fast and keep winning would be the encore for next year.”

Tuohy had finished 15th at the NCAA Championships last year with 19:43.0, and went on to win the 5,000-meter run at the NCAA Outdoor track and field championships June 11 with 15.18.39. Who did she beat by less than two seconds? Valby.

Valby wasn’t an unknown in cross country circles — she finished 27th last year at the NCAA Championships — but she only competed in three races this fall, winning all three. She clocked 19:17.20 at the NCAA South Regional in Huntsville, Ala. Tuohy had won the NCAA Southeast Regional with 19:49.1 in Louisville, Ky.

Valby made it her mission to separate from the group early in the race, and only Tuohy was game to also leave the pack of runners. Tuohy finishing kick in the stretch drive of 6,000 meters proved the difference.

“I definitely think having track speed helps finishing stretches in cross country,” Tuohy said.

Tuohy was then able to see her teammates finish and win the team title for the second straight year with 114 points, 26 less than New Mexico. NC State had four of the top 24 runners from qualifying teams. Alabama was third, host Oklahoma State was fourth and North Carolina was fifth.

“We got the nice warm welcome when we got back to campus and the Belltower,” Tuohy said. “We received the key and opened it for the girls to go in there and experience it. It’s a big deal here at NC State.”

NC State went wire-to-wire in the polls this season in defending its title. Tuohy said the runners talked about how every person they passed was “plus-one for them and minus-one for us and the team score.”

“We are a really tight knit group,” Tuohy said. “We all buy into the team aspect of cross country. I think it helps us out in a lot of ways because we try to find each other and work together. Cross country is very team oriented for us.”

Tuohy, who is from Stony Point (N.Y.) North Rockland High, which is by the Hudson River north of New York City. She was a distance running super star in high school. She was the unique three-time Gatorade athlete of the year for cross country.

Tuohy had competed against Chmiel, who was from upstate New York in Saratoga Springs. She downplayed any kind of past running rivalry and cited Chmiel and NC State coach Laurie Henes for picking the Wolfpack.

“I think the people is kind of what made wan to go to NC State,” Tuohy said. “I really liked the team culture on my visit and I knew Kelsey from high school and a couple of others. I definitely wanted to come in here because I fit in with the team and knew I’d be happy.

“Having Coach Henes as the coach was definitely favorable for NC State. She had Elly, her daughter who won the 5K [national title] in track the year before I did. She knows what it is like for female distance runners to go to the NCAA at an elite level. She herself was a runner and won Nationals in college for NC State and ran professionally.”

Tuohy is still training and got close to 10 miles running Monday morning. She said she’ll be racing the 5K in the Boston Opener on Saturday for the start of the indoor track and field schedule.

Tuohy will have some newly-created stardom after winning the NCAA title. She currently has over 89,800 followers on Instagram.

“Indoor NCAAs are in the beginning of March, so training is geared towards that,” Tuohy said. “I don’t know what event I’ll do, but hopefully, we can get a relay going.”

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