The 85th annual NCAA Men’s Division I Cross Country Championship and the 43rd annual NCAA Women’s Division I Cross Country Championship are set to unfold at the Panorama Farms in Charlottesville, Virginia on November 18th. Hosted by the University of Virginia, these championships represent a significant milestone in the careers of collegiate athletes. The event will feature four distinct titles up for contention—men’s and women’s individual and team championships, but we have our eyes on two athletes in particular who are sure to put on a show: NC State’s Katelyn Tuohy and Florida’s Parker Valby.
After a remarkable come-from-behind victory last year, Tuohy, who finished 15th in 2021, concluded an undefeated cross-country season. She continued her success well into the new year. Tuohy kicked off the 2023 season on January 28 by shattering the NCAA indoor mile record, securing a third-place finish against two professional athletes with a remarkable time of 4:24.26 at the Dr. Sander Invitational Columbia Challenge.
This achievement surpassed the previous NCAA record of 4:25.91 held by Jenny Simpson since 2009. Continuing her impressive performance, on February 11 at the Millrose Games in New York, Tuohy established a new NCAA indoor 3000m record, clocking in at 8:35.20 and surpassing Karissa Schweizer’s previous collegiate best of 8:41.60. Tuohy went on to finish 7th in the 5000m at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
So far this cross country season, Tuohy has only raced three times. Tuohy placed first at both the ACC XC Championships and NCAA Division I Southeast Region Cross Country Championships, running times of 19:22.8 and 19:29.8, respectively, over 6km. It was the Nuttycombe Invite, her first race of the season, in which she placed second to Parker Valby, who will also be eyeing the NCAA title in a few days.
Valby bravely took the lead in last year’s cross country championship until the closing moments, ultimately securing a 2nd-place finish behind Tuohy in only her third race of the season. Despite grappling with a leg injury for a significant part of the year, she participated in just one indoor race (a swift 8:49.71 last December).
Valby then claimed a commanding victory in the 5000m at the 2023 NCAA Outdoor Track and FIeld Championships, while maintaining a training regimen of approximately 20 miles a week, complemented by extensive cross-training. She won the race in a time of 15:30.57, nine seconds faster than second place. As for the 2023 cross country season, Valby has also just raced three times and is currently undefeated. She took first at the SEC Championships running the 6k course in a time of 18:37.5 and then went on to improve her 6k time at the NCAA Division I South Region Cross Country Championships with a time of 17:59.6.
As the championship day approaches, the clash between Tuohy and Valby promises to be one for the books. Their rivalry, marked by twists and turns, injuries, and triumphs, adds an extra layer of excitement to an already thrilling event.