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Fast Women: Conference wins for Parker Valby, Katelyn Tuohy
Marathoner Sophie King's quick rise
Issue 263, sponsored by New Balance
Parker Valby, Katelyn Tuohy earn conference wins, NAU sweeps
Last year, Will and Samantha Palmer coached Alabama to its first SEC cross country title in 35 years. This year, the Palmers have moved on to the University of Florida, and they led the Gators to their first SEC cross country title since 2012.
Parker Valby led the way for Florida, taking the individual title in 18:37.5. Everyone else in Florida’s top five transferred in this year. Alabama’s Doris Lemngole challenged Valby at the 4K mark of the 6K race, briefly taking the lead, but Valby moved back to the front and the race was not close after that. She won by 33 seconds over Lemngole. Right now, Valby is looking like the runner to beat at next month’s NCAA championships. (Post-race interview with Valby | Results)
Katelyn Tuohy won her second consecutive ACC cross country title, leading NC State to its eighth title in a row. She covered Florida State’s 6K course in 19:22.8 and finished seven seconds ahead of Duke’s Amina Maatoug. (Post-race interview with coach Laurie Henes | Results)
Other Conference Highlights
Competing in her hometown of Missoula, Montana, NAU’s Elise Stearns won the Big Sky Cross Country Championships for the second year in a row, covering the snowy 5K course in 16:21.10. NAU, currently the top ranked team in the country, swept the top seven spots. (Stearns’ finish | Good post-race interview with Stearns | Results)
Oklahoma State’s Taylor Roe and Billah Jepkirui went 1–2 at the Big 12 Cross Country Championships, but it wasn’t enough to hold off conference newcomer BYU, who won 35–39. BYU’s depth is its strength, and led by Lexy Halladay-Lowry, they went 4-6-7-8-10. Roe, who ran with a thigh sleeve on her right leg, was running her first race of the season. (Roe’s finish | Results)
Running at home, the University of Washington won the final edition of the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships, earning their first title since 2009. Stanford first year Amy Bunnage, of Australia, topped a strong field, winning in 19:09.7 for 6K. Oregon State’s Grace Fetherstonhaugh and Kaylee Mitchell went 2–3. Sophie O’Sullivan led the UW women with a sixth-place finish, and Chloe Foerster (seventh) picked up four spots in the final kilometer to help the Huskies edge Stanford by two points. Maurica Powell previously led Oregon to two Pac-12 cross country titles, so this was her third title overall. (Brief highlights | Results)
Ohio State’s Addie Engel repeated as Big Ten cross country champion, covering Wisconsin’s 6K course in 20:47.9. And Michigan State repeated as team champions. (Finish video | Post-race interview | Results)
Thanks to New Balance for supporting Fast Women
I can’t thank New Balance enough for supporting Fast Women for the past six months, and for everything they do for the running community. And as a major sponsor of the New York City Marathon, they’ll have a strong presence in NYC this weekend. If you’re looking to try out New Balance shoes, here are some good places to start:
Daily trainer with some extra oomph: The FuelCell SuperComp Trainer v2, a super shoe that you can wear every day
Road racing shoes: FuelCell SuperComp Elite v3, a good marathon racing shoe, or the FuelCell SuperComp Pacer, a lower stack racing shoe designed for 5K to the half marathon, though Emily Sisson races marathons in them.
Sophie King goes from beginner to Trials qualifier in less than two years
When Sophie King took up distance running in 2021, she approached training like the former swimmer she is, going hard every day. “In swimming, we never had easy days, so I never considered [running] easy mileage,” King told Fast Women. “I was always trying to run under 7:00 pace, whether I was on a trail or whatever. I thought it was always supposed to be hard.”
King, 27, is a cancer researcher at the National Institutes of Health, and when her job went remote during the pandemic, she moved home to Chesterfield, Virginia, and became her father’s primary caretaker as well.
“He unfortunately isn’t able to walk much these days, but every day, he gets up and he says he’s gonna run a marathon today,” she said. “Hearing him say that, I just told him, ‘Maybe I’ll run one for you,’ thinking it would just be one.”
King began training for the 2021 Richmond Marathon, held in November. She had run distance races before and showed a lot of promise, but she still had a lot to learn when it came to training. Fortunately, her sister Bethany, an experienced runner, explained the concept of recovery days to her around that time. In order to figure out how to train for a marathon, King went on Strava and noticed that people were doing a couple of workouts a week, long runs, and increasing their mileage over time.
But she must have been following some pretty serious runners, because she jumped right into running 60–75 miles per week. Fortunately, her body held up. In her debut marathon, despite knowing very little about fueling on the run, she finished third among the women in 2:49:02. After going through halfway in 1:26:05, King ran the second half in 1:22:57. Most important, she fell in love with running.
After the race, someone told her she wasn’t all that far off of the qualifying time for the 2020 U.S Olympic Marathon Trials, 2:45:00. “I had no idea what was fast and what was not, which is good and bad, because you don’t limit yourself,” King said. “But at the same time, you don’t really know where you are in the scheme of the running scene.”
She decided she would go after a qualifying time for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. And when the qualifying time dropped to 2:37:00 shortly thereafter, King wasn’t fazed. She hired an online coach to help her. In her second marathon, the 2022 Grandma’s Marathon, she still didn’t quite have fueling down. She took water along the course and two gels, and improved to a 2:41:58.
By the time the California International Marathon rolled around in December 2022, she had figured out how to fuel. And only 15 months after she decided to train for her first marathon and take the sport more seriously, she qualified for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, running 2:35:47.
King says her father doesn’t quite understand how good she is, but he’s proud nonetheless. “Something I wanted to do for him ended up being something that saved me and something that I do for me now,” she said. “Every day, he’ll say, ‘I’m so proud of you for taking your health so seriously.’ My dream is for him to one day watch me race. He just hasn’t been healthy enough to get out of the house for that long.”
Swimming to stand out
In some ways, it’s no surprise that King is having success in running now. She grew up in a family of runners, but as a quadruplet, she wanted to forge her own path. Her brother and two sisters all ran in high school, which made her more determined to find success in swimming. “I had my own set of friends, my own sport, and my own attention from my parents because of swimming, so I really clung to it,” she said.
The track coach at Matoaca High School knew King might be good at running, and her swimming coach let her out of practice one day a week during track season so she could run in some track meets. She did no running-specific training, and she thinks the longest she ever ran in high school matched the distance of her longest race: 1000 meters. But off of swimming training, King thinks she ran about 2:18 for 800m and 3:03 in the 1000m. She earned all-state honors in the latter event her senior year, the same weekend she competed in regionals for swimming.
Being a quadruplet inspired King to give her best in everything she did. “When I look back, I had my own set of teammates all the time, but I also had my biggest competitors,” she said. “Being in that kind of environment where you just continually push yourself and each other, it created this incredible foundation as an athlete and just as a person in general. And all of them would say the same, I’m sure.”
King walked on to the swim team at UConn and eventually earned a scholarship, but beginning her junior year, illness prevented her from reaching her full potential. She graduated in 2018 feeling like she had some unfinished business athletically. She attended Georgetown for graduate school, earning her master’s degree in public health, and then the pandemic hit, and she returned home to Virginia.
Mentored by the best
Thanks to a series of fortunate events—running the same races, winding up on the same flight on one occasion, and bumping into her at the local track—King got to know Virginia’s most famous runner, American record holder Keira D’Amato, and her coach, Scott Raczko.
When D’Amato introduced Raczko and King at the track, they chatted for a long time, and Raczko stayed to watch King's workout. “I don’t think he knows this to this day, but that was the first time a coach had ever seen me run [a workout] in person,” King said.
King appreciated that Raczko didn’t seem shocked by her goals. It wasn’t long before Raczko offered to coach her, and she jumped at the chance. “It’s been the best, most life-changing thing that’s happened in my running career so far,” King said.”
Now King meets up with D’Amato and Raczko at least twice a week. She and D’Amato either do the same workouts, or they do different workouts alongside one another. If King is keeping up with D’Amato, it’s usually because they’re doing 200s or King is doing a shorter version of D’Amato’s workout. (For instance, at a recent workout, King did 1200s while D’Amato did miles.)
“If she’s about to drop me, she’s always giving me praise,” King said. “For her to skip a breath so that she can give me those words is just the kindest thing.” King also appreciates that D’Amato has been quick to introduce her to as many people as possible in the running industry, because D’Amato remembers what it was like to feel like an outsider on the pro scene.
King’s buildup for the Olympic Trials, which take place February 3, 2024 in Orlando, Florida, is already underway. She plans to race the Richmond Half in November, but her main goal is a top 15 finish at the Trials. Her running has been going so well that she has decided to put her plans to attend medical school on hold for now.
“I really do believe that I could be something great in this sport, and I don’t want to leave it prematurely,” she said. “I think I would always wonder where I could go with it. This is a more pressing passion and I want to see it through.”
Other News and Links
According to Sara Hall, all parties involved—USATF, NBC—are willing to move the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials start time earlier, except the local organizing committee. She says that the organizers want to keep the event’s noon start to attract more West Coast viewers. I’d love to hear what the organizers have to say about it.
I appreciate Madie Boreman’s honesty in this piece she wrote for her sponsor, Oiselle, about the barriers she faced in becoming a professional runner, including a lack of support from her coaches at the University of Colorado, Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs. “I learned quickly to expect very little support from them and depend on myself,” she wrote. “I experienced three years of consecutive injuries and endured a lot of negative feedback about my body, my commitment to the sport, and my future.”
Cathal Dennehy wrote a good piece about Italy’s Nadia Battocletti, 23, who studies engineering and architecture 10 hours per day, in addition to being a world class runner.
Mary Cain was in Washington, DC, last week to push for changes to the U.S. Center for SafeSport.
Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone discussed some of the details in her book, which comes out January 30, here.
Illinois high school senior Ali Ince, a 2:03 800m runner, announced that she has committed to the University of Oregon. Ince recently signed an NIL deal with New Balance.
Lauren Fleshman’s Good for a Girl has made the short list for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year.
If you find yourself in New York City in the coming months, the New York Historical Society’s Running for Civil Rights: The New York Pioneer Club, 1936–1976 exhibition opened on Friday, and it will run through February 25, 2024. More information here.
Katie Izzo won a close race with Jeralyn Poe in the half marathon at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, with both runners finishing in 1:10:43. Marybeth Chelanga (1:10:55), Olivia Pratt (1:10:57), and Elvin Kibet (1:11:22) rounded out the top five, with Izzo, Chelanga, and Kibet earning new qualifiers for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Chelanga missed the 1:12:00 standard by six seconds at last month’s Philadelphia Distance Run, so it was great to see her qualify with plenty of room to spare here. Canada’s Rachel Hannah won the marathon with a course record of 2:35:12. Elizabeth Bigelow (2:35:27) and Lucy Dobbs (2:36:33) took second and third, respectively, and both earned new Trials qualifiers. I believe this brings the total to 156 women so far. Missy Rock (fourth, 2:37:03) and Hannah Moulton (fifth, 2:37:18) came agonizingly close to the Trials standard. (Half marathon results | Marathon results)
Ethiopia’s Buzunesh Getachew won a rainy Frankfurt Marathon in a personal best of 2:19:27. (Results)
Kenya’s Vibian Chepkirui won the Beijing Marathon in 2:21:57.
Kenya’s Everlyne Chirchir won the Nairobi Marathon in 2:24:31, an impressive time at altitude.
Reigning world cross country champion Beatrice Chebet of Kenya won the Cross Internacional de Atapuerca on Sunday in Spain. Running in windy and rainy conditions, Chebet covered the 8K course in 25:21.
High school sophomore Addy Ritzenhein won the Colorado 4A state title in a meet record of 17:08. I’m seeing a lot of social media comments about her running form resembling that of her father, Dathan Ritzenhein. But she also takes after her mother, the former Kalin Toedebusch, who was a top high school and college runner.
Heather Jackson, who is only one year into her ultrarunning career (YouTube link), won the Javelina Jundred 100-mile race in 14:24:47. She and runner-up Ragna Debats (14:55:27) earned golden tickets to the 2024 Western States Endurance Run. Riley Brady was third in 15:29:17. Anna Kacius won the 100K and finished second overall in a course record of 8:13:07. And Courtney Dauwalter finished the 100K alongside her mother, Tracy Dauwalter, 66, who ran 17:38:33. The duo had previously attempted a 50-mile race together, but they didn’t hit the time cutoffs, so they were unable to finish. (Results)
Molly Seidel was great on the Ali on the Run Show, discussing her Chicago Marathon experience. She said part of her feared that she wouldn’t be able to run as well without an eating disorder, but during her buildup she realized how much better she can run when her body is well fueled. Her comments about the recent Runner’s World feature made me laugh. The article described her house in Flagstaff as having a post-college flophouse feel. “I’ve been working really hard on the interior design of my house, so that one stung a bit,” she said, laughing. “I’ve learned from this article, too, that I am very off the cuff and need to remember that literally anything I say can end up in the article.”
Seidel also discussed her Chicago race on The Build Up with Molly Seidel and Julia Hanlon and said that while she respects those who feel differently, she doesn’t care when the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials start, and she’s fine if nothing changes. (Start at the 33:30 mark to hear everything she had to say on the matter, but I also recommend listening to the entire episode.)
Calli Thackery discussed her 2:22 debut at Bakline’s McKirdy Micro Marathon on Marathon Talk. She said that it was only last year that she was able to quit her job and go all-in on running, so she’s excited to see what she can do now that she has more support. She said her next marathon is likely to be the Seville Marathon, in February. (She comes on at the 20-minute mark.) Thackery also discussed the race on the Citius Mag podcast. You can listen to that episode and read some of the highlights from the conversation here.
Additional Episodes: Harvard standout Maia Ramsden on Citius Mag | Hammer thrower Janee’ Kassanavoid on Hear Her Sports | Olympian and legend Francie Larrieu Smith on Starting Line 1928 | Rose Harvey and her Chicago Marathon pacer, Ben Bruce, on I’ll Have Another | Molly Bookmyer on For the Long Run | Masters runner Polly Moody discussed going from a knee injury to a 2:46 marathon on The Rambling Runner Podcast | Anh Bui talked about her goal of breaking the Vietnamese marathon record on Multiple Perspectives | And if you’re looking for a sauna protocol heading into a hot race, Clayton Young described his starting at the 30-minute mark of this episode of C Tolle Run.
Due to a tight schedule on my end, next week’s New York City Marathon issue is likely to go out a bit later than usual. The USATF 5K Championships take place on Saturday morning in New York City. The men start at 8:30 and the women go five minutes later. If you watch live, which you can do here, the broadcast is free. If you watch after the fact, you’ll need a USATF TV/RunnerSpace subscription.
And there are many ways to watch Sunday’s New York City Marathon. You can read about all of them here, but locally, the race will be on ABC 7 New York. Nationally, it will be on ESPN2 and the ESPN app, and it sounds like the uninterrupted coverage via the New York City Marathon app is going to be fantastic this year, so make sure you download the app prior to the race. The wheelchair division starts at 8:00 a.m. ET, and the pro women’s open division starts at 8:40.