* Katelyn Tuohy and Marlee Starliper are NC State’s top two recruits in the Class of 2020
Has North Carolina State signed the best women’s distance recruiting class ever?
There is a mountain of data to sift through, and trying to gauge what makes one recruiting class better than another is often subjective, especially over numerous decades. Should we focus solely on times? Is consistency a reasonable factor to consider? What about an athlete’s potential? What about their championship accolades?
Everyone’s rubric is always a little different.
But we don’t have to think too hard about NC State to know that this incoming group of distance runners is beyond special. The overwhelming firepower that the Wolfpack will bring into their women’s program next year is so unfathomable that it’s almost difficult to put into words.
So instead of trying to describe just how good they are, we thought showing you some stats would be more appropriate.
20: Total number of cross country national championship appearances
A total of 20 national meet appearances at the high school level is other-worldly. That kind of experience is extremely valuable for an NC State team which finished fifth at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in 2019 and likely has national title aspirations for the fall of 2020.
Just look back at current NC State freshman Kelsey Chmiel. One of the more accomplished New York natives of the past five years, Chmiel was able to collect a huge 22nd-place finish at the 2019 NCAA XC Championships this past fall. Clearly, the big stage didn’t phase someone who was used to the bright lights.
But championship experience doesn’t necessarily matter if no one has run well on the national stage — something that NC State coach Laurie Henes won’t have to worry about…
19: The total number of top 25 finishes at cross country national championships
The group of Hendrix, Schulz, Walters, Starliper and Tuohy have only finished outside of the top 25 on one occasion throughout their high school careers at national championship meets. That lone instance came in 2015 when Katelyn Tuohy finished 49th at NXN as only an 8th grader.
But setting the bar for success with a top-25 finish doesn’t truly portray just how good some of these young women are. Often times, these athletes were well within the top 20 or top 10 at NXN or Foot Locker.
At the Foot Locker National Championships, Alyssaa Hendrix has recorded finishes of 18th, 17th, and (most recently) 15th.
Claire Walters, who has been competing at NXN since she was in 8th grade, has three top-five finishes.
Meanwhile, Schulz has a trio of NXN results inside the top 25, with her best race being a 13th-place finish this past fall.
Then there is Marlee Starliper, who has a pair of 13th-place finishes at the Foot Locker Championships as well as a runner-up result this past fall…one week after she placed fifth at NXN.
Finally, we have Katelyn Tuohy. She’s a three-time NXN champion. That should be all that we need to say.
While some of these women may need to refine their talent a little further, it wouldn’t be crazy to suggest that all five of them could have an immediate impact if they are called upon.
3: The number of recruits who own sub-17:00 5k personal bests
At first glance, this number isn’t overly impressive, at least compared to some of the other stats that we have for you. However, the reason I wanted to mention this stat is because it highlights the depth of this recruiting class.
It should come as no surprise to see Tuohy and Starliper owning 5,000 meter PR’s well under the 17 minute barrier. That much is a given.
But the third woman who owns a 5k PR under 17 minutes isn’t Claire Walters, Jenna Shulz or Alyssa Hendrix. It’s Gionna Quarzo. Despite her lack of national meet experience during cross country, Quarzo owns a 5K PR of 16:56 from the 2019 outdoor track and field season, third best among the NC State recruits.
Quarzo could very easily be a scorer for the Wolfpack at the ACC Championships during the winter and spring months.
9:32: The average 3,000 meter PR between these six distance recruits
Cross country accolades are important, but they aren’t the defining factors of what makes a recruiting class great. Between these six women, their average 3K PR is a mind-boggling 9:32.
For perspective, 9:32 would have been fast enough to secure the fifth-fastest time in the entire country during the 2019 indoor track season. But for these recruits as a whole, that’s the standard.
Of course, it would be unfair to ignore the fact that Tuohy and Starliper are a big reason for such a strong average. Tuohy owns a 9:01 PR while Starliper owns a 9:20 PR. The rest of these women have personal bests floating around the 9:30 to 9:50 range. Even so, that is some insane depth to have, further proving the idea that these women could all be legitimate contributors early-on in their college careers.
6: The number of women that the NC State women return from last fall’s 5th place NCAA XC Championship team.
There’s not much more I can say to convince you that this may be one of the greatest distance recruiting classes ever assembled. However, despite their elite status, each of these youngsters will still have to fight to earn themselves a spot on what is already a loaded roster.
The NC State women return six women from last year’s championship lineup, which was 22 points out of fourth place (the final podium position). The lone departure from last year’s team is star low-stick Elly Henes, who provided her team with key scoring potency throughout her time in Raleigh, North Carolina. In her wake, she leaves behind one of the deepest teams in the country.
And while it is certainly fair to suggest that not all of these recruits will race for NC State’s varsity lineup in 2020, it is still reasonable to think that women like Starliper and Tuohy are already at an All-American caliber. When paired with Chmiel, they can form one of the most feared groups of scorers in the nation.
And maybe that will be enough to give the NC State women their first national title in program history.