NSJ 2022 College Team of the Year: NC State women’s cross-country sets new standard of excellence

The Wolfpack won their second straight national title

NC State's Katelyn Tuohy runs toward the finish line to win the individual title in the NCAA Cross Country Championships in November, also helping the Wolfpack win their second straight team title. (Sue Ogrocki / AP Photo)

At first glance, cross-country doesn’t seem like much of a team sport. Each runner has their individual times recorded, aiming for personal bests while generally not impacting the outcome of their teammates or opponents through their actions.

But a successful cross-country runner is mostly driven by the sense of unity that comes from teamwork. In a way, you are only as strong as your slowest runner, and the drive to work harder for the person next to you pushes you forward and faster.

That’s why cross-country is a team sport.

And it’s that sense of drive that has helped propel the NC State women’s cross-country team to be one of the best teams in the state — and North State Journal’s 2022 College Team of the Year.

“We’re a really tight-knit group,” said junior Katelyn Tuohy, who won an NCAA individual title this year on top of the Wolfpack claiming their second straight NCAA team championship. “We really kind of buy into the team aspect of cross-country. I think it really helps us a lot when we race because we try to find each other and work together and we all do it for each other. Cross-country is very team-oriented for us as we kind of go into every race with the mindset that we’re doing it for each other.”

With back-to-back national titles, the only program in school history to do so, the Wolfpack cross-country team has set a new standard for excellence as one of the elite programs at the school.

Led by Tuohy, who set a new course record in the national championship race in Stillwater, Oklahoma, with a time of 19:27.7, the Wolfpack finished with 114 points, notably with three top-15 finishers — including first and third — to secure consecutive titles.

Throughout the season the Wolfpack was ranked No. 1 in the polls, yet they never folded under the pressure of being the defending champs.

“There’s been some stress with it, but I think that understanding what you need to do is not bad either,” said coach Laurie Henes, who was also named ACC women’s coach of the year for a seventh straight season. “A lot of people say they like to be the underdog, but in a way, I think you learn a lot from winning too. Everyone says you learn a lot from losing, but you can learn a lot from winning. Just the fact that things don’t have to be perfect throughout the season, and they certainly weren’t for us, but we reacted to it, managed it and I think it showed.”

Things are also a lot easier for the team when you have the best runner in the country leading the charge.

Tuohy was ACC, Southeast Region and national champion, helping her easily claim the 2023 Honda Award winner for cross-country — an award presented to the top female athlete in 12 NCAA-sanctioned sports — and put her in the running for the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year.

“It is an honor to win The Honda Sports Award for cross-country this year,” Tuohy told GoPack.com. “This award means a lot to me because it not only recognizes my athletic performance but my academic achievement and community involvement. So many amazing women that I look up to have won this award in the past and it is a privilege to be able to join them as a recipient of the award.”

The final results for the Honda Cup will be presented in June.

But it was not only Tuohy who was pulling the rope for the team.

Senior Kelsey Chmiel was also one of the top runners in the country, earning one of the four finalist spots for the Honda Award. She finished as runner-up in the ACC Championships and Southeast Regionals and third in the NCAA championships. Chmiel, Tuohy, senior Sam Bush and graduate Nevada Mareno were all named to the All-American team.

And even after winning the title, the Wolfpack team was back out in the field for practice just a few days later. It’s not much for an elite team like the Wolfpack, but the routine of being a champion starts with the consistency and commitment to doing what needs to be done.

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