- - -
So what does an athlete who completed arguably the best girls cross country season in history do for an encore?
This is the question Brian Diglio tried to answer this offseason as he was looking to challenge his star pupil, North Rockland (NY) High School junior and MileSplit50 No. 1 Katelyn Tuohy, in the season ahead.
"I knew that with the season she had last year that there would be a lot of attention and pressure on her," said Diglio, the head coach of the Raiders cross country team. "I think one of my jobs as a coach, in addition to keeping her healthy and fit, was to deflect as much pressure off of her as possible. And that's not very easy to do. Anytime she'll run this season, anywhere, there will be eyeballs."
Of course, while pressure does exist in Tuohy's world, the exact meaning of it is probably relative. Any pressure the reigning Gatorade National Cross Country And Track And Field Athlete of the Year feels isn't the average athlete's pressure. So what Diglio really wanted to do in 2018 was to create an atmosphere where his high school junior would experience new courses, new conditions and new competitors.
That might include Foot Locker Nationals in 2018, though that's a fluid question at this point. It's all dependent on how North Rockland's girls race this fall.
While the challenge of Foot Locker is something Tuohy yearns for at this point in her career, it might ultimately come at the expense of her team. Both the NXR New York and Foot Locker Northeast Regionals fall on the same day. Diglio said he would have to choose for his athlete.
"In an ideal world, we would certainly look at doing both, but it's a big ask to have a kid fly to Portland and San Diego and try to run both," he said of the reigning Nike Cross Nationals champion. "The Foot Locker title is a special thing, but with both qualifiers, it would be a choice between the two."
That question, however, is not something Diglio or Tuohy is thinking about at this point in the season, either.
Right now, his program is focusing on the Red Raider Run, where the team will open up at this weekend at Bear Mountain State Park. He said Tuohy will pace junior Haleigh Morales.
Beyond that race, the team will travel outside the state to well known meets in Rhode Island and New Jersey.
"I made the decision that I wanted to go to different meets, go to new courses, go to some new places," Diglio said. "It's a nice challenge for the kids that it's not the same old meet schedule."
Significantly, gone are mainstays like the Grout and Manhattan Invitationals--two courses where Tuohy broke course records in 2017.
In their place, Diglio added the Ocean State Invitational on September 22 in Rhode Island at Goddard Park, the New Balance Shore Coaches Invitational on October 6 in New Jersey at Holmdel Park, and the Suffolk Officials Invitational on Oct. 13 at Sunken Meadows in Kings Park, New York.
Diglio said Tuohy will go "uptempo" for those three meets.
If nothing else, the important variables would change: Course terrain, contending teams, athletes, and weather conditions. But at Sunken Meadows, in particular, Tuohy will race on an important course she hasn't seen before.
"That course demands some time and attention," Diglio said. "The whole team will need it."
Only time will tell just how good this North Rockland girls team will become, though changing variables will challenge the team like never before. Diglio believes that will test all of his athletes.
"I really believing in changing the system is good."
- - -
Contact MileSplit National Producer Cory Mull at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bycorymull