NEW YORK — The competitor in Katelyn Tuohy was happy.
The competitor in Katelyn Tuohy was kicking herself.
“Sooo close,” she said to coach Brian Diglio.
That would be close to breaking nine minutes for 3,000 meters.
But the 9:01.81 the North Rockland High junior ran Saturday during the Dr. Sander Invitational at The Armory was special.
Really, really special.
Not only did that time give her third place in her first ever race against professionals but it broke former Bronxville standout Mary Cain’s national girls indoor high school record for a 3K run on the standard 200-meter track.
Cain, running as an independent while still in high school, had set the record at 9:04.61 in 2014.
But she had to know that wasn’t going to last. Tuohy, who has claimed multiple Cain records, ran 9:05.26 last year.
And that was while not being pushed.
Saturday, an elite field pushed Tuohy and the 16-year-old responded like a much older veteran athlete as she beat five pros of the seven pros she faced.
Her time was nearly 13 seconds faster than Caroline Alcorta of Villanova, Saturday’s winner of the women’s collegiate 3,000 and it was 5.24 seconds faster than any American female collegian had run the distance this season.
Tuohy stayed back in the lead pack from the get-go in her race. With six laps to go, she took the lead. But with four to go, eventual winner Amanda Eccleston, a University of Michigan grad and coach and five-year pro, took the lead.
Eccleston, who runs for Brooks, edged Asics runner Heather Kampf 8:56.68 to 8:56.87.
But her victory seemed almost a footnote to Tuohy’s finish as the crowd cheered her on as she ran for the U.S. high school mark.
“I had a great time out there,” Tuohy said, describing herself as stepping on the track more excited than nervous and with the intention of “getting my feet wet.”
“It’s so much easier to race girls better than me,” she said.
Tuohy, the only non-pro in an eight-athlete field, lamented being unable to grab a rail position to save herself multiple feet each lap during a good portion of the race and for not being more aggressive earlier late in the race.
“I definitely learned it’s nothing like high school,” she said. “They pick a spot and they definitely want that spot. Next time, I want to get on the rail.
“Man, if I’d just pushed with three laps to go instead of two,” she said. … “I was so close to sub-9 but I’ll get there.”
North Rockland coach Brian Diglio laughed at Tuohy’s first post-race statement to him: “I feel like I didn’t give it my best.”
“I’m super proud. … This was perfect for her,” he said. “It was a great experience. She handled herself well.”
He liked how Tuohy responded when starting to tire late in the race, noting she clocked a 35-second lap her next to last lap.
And he liked that, in contrast to her high school races, people pushed her.
“She got to race the last 400 meters and was not just racing herself,” Diglio said, describing the race as a “big one” for his young runner.
Eccleston, who’s known more as a miler, said she realized she didn’t have to “freak out” when Tuohy took the lead, since there was so much time left. She said she started “slowly bridging the gap” on Tuohy, the 2018 Gatorade girls high school athlete of the year, who holds not only the girls high school indoor 5K mark but under-20 girls junior mark, as well as the U.S. girls high school outdoor mile record.
While saying she regarded Tuohy as “just another competitor,” Eccleston said she liked the crowd’s reaction to the young star because it put the “energy level up in the whole building.”