Katie Tonyai won three divisional titles this year and was just shy of another one at states
Recent Conant graduate Katie Tonyai has always been fast.
But over the past four years, Tonyai has transformed that raw ability and become one of the best sprinters in the state.
After winning two state titles at last year’s Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Tonyai had high expectations coming into her senior season. And she lived up to each of them.
It started with a win in the 55 meters at the D-II Indoor Championships and continued with repeats in both the 100 and 200 meters at the D-III meet. A second and third place finish at Meet of Champions and a third straight trip to New Englands capped off her impressive career.
And that speed also helped during the field hockey season, as Tonyai was named to the Division III first-team all-state and earned one of 20 spots on the Twin State team.
On Thursday, Tonyai sat down with Sports Editor Tim Goodwin to answer some questions about a return trip to the playoffs, winning divisional titles and how much goes into a race.
What are some of your fondest memories of being a Conant athlete?
“Just having all the memories with the team and just hanging out with them. The team is a lot of what makes track fun and field hockey, too. It’s all about the team.”
When did you start playing field hockey and what drew you to the sport?
“I started in seventh grade after my sister played in sixth grade. Field hockey was the first sport I ever picked up, so it was just something I wanted to try out.”
What did it feel like to make playoffs this year for the first time since freshman year?
“It was awesome. My freshman year we had some really good players. My sophomore year we still had a lot of good players, but it didn’t quite come together the way we wanted it to and getting a new coach changed everything for my junior year. By senior year, we all pulled it together and it was awesome.”
You guys lost 1-0 in overtime to Hopkinton in the playoffs, how much would you like another shot at them?
“I would train all summer to play them again. It was a good game. We played them twice during the regular season and lost both times, but going into the playoffs we kind of knew their star players and had a good strategy against them. But overtime and one goal.”
What did it mean to be voted first team all-state and make the Twin State team?
“It’s such an honor. I remember when I started playing field hockey, I had speed from running, but I didn’t quite have the stick skills to match it. So I was really proud of myself my senior year to finally get the stick skills to back up everything and actually play the game well.”
When did you start sprinting?
“I didn’t really know I was fast until eighth grade when I did outdoor track. I won the 100, but couldn’t do the 200 to save my life...I was always a sprinter. I’ve tried longer distances and I can do it, but sprinting just has been my strong suit all along and I’ve stuck with it.”
Entering the indoor track season, what were some of your goals?
“Just to have a good season, have fun and PR. Switching coaches going into the indoor season, I was really worried, but it worked out.”
Did you have any expectations of winning a divisional title?
“I was not eyeing any state championships. That’s a lot of pressure. Last year I came in second in the 300 meters, so I kind of wanted to win that.”
You had a pretty successful indoor regular season, what expectations did you have going into the Division II Championships?
“For the Division II meet, I really wanted to do well in the 300 meters and I did, I came in second. But [winning] the 55 meters, that was just a surprise. I didn’t believe it when I crossed the line at the end and looked at the timing.”
What did it feel like when you won the 55-meter title?
“In the prelims, I came in third and I was like ‘another year in third,’ but I ran well in the finals and came in first. That was amazing. It made it a good day.”
Were you disappointed that you didn’t win the 300 as well?
“No. I was happy with my performance, but at the same time I led like the whole race and that one girl got me in the end. Track is a lot of fun and the competition is what makes it really enjoyable.”
What was it like competing at the New England Championships?
“The first time I went for indoors was last year and there’s just so many people and everyone is so fast. It was a lot of fun and there was a lot of excitement building up to it because the way it works is that New Hampshire’s indoor season ends the first week in February and New Englands aren’t until the first week in March.”
After such a successful indoor season and what you did last year in outdoor, did you feel any pressure to have a great season?
“I did feel pressure. I feel like I set standards for myself last year and I wanted to do it again this season.”
You were prefect in the 200 meters during the regular season, how can you explain that kind of dominance?
“What I think is a good race is not necessarily what needs to be done to come in first at a normal regular season race. I do my best every time, but when you have the competition around you, you run a lot faster...It’s just about hard work and being consistent.”
Going into the Division III Championships, what were your expectations?
“I wanted to go out there and win. The Division III meet is where my knee started bothering me, so I knew I had to go out there and win. I knew I had it in me...I feel like with all the regular season meets, you know who you will run against and I was confident.”
What did it feel like to win both the 100 and 200?
“It was a good day. You go far away to compete and you come back feeling good about what you did. It’s something I want everyone on the team to feel, no matter if you get a state championship. As long as you go out there and do your best you’re going to have a good day.”
Was your goal also to win both the 100 and 200 at Meet of Champions?
“The difference in skill and competition from the Division III meet and Meet of Champions is totally different. I was nervous, but excited to have that good competition because I knew I’d race better with it.”
Were you happy with your performance at New Englands?
“No, not so much. It was a lot of fun, but my knee had been bothering me and New Englands was kind of the last straw. I think I peaked perfectly for Meet of Champions, but at New Englands my knee was just not feeling it.”
What is it like to know you are leaving Conant with five school records and likely as the school’s best sprinter?
“I never thought of it that way, but that feels pretty good. I want to feel like I left my mark on the school, not only from athletics, but I did very well academically and it proves that you can do three sports seasons and balance everything.”
Most people see you run for less than a minute, but how much goes into one race?
“A lot. In my earlier track years, I was just thinking ‘go berserk, go as fast as you can.’ Then as the years have gone by, I realized there’s faster than berserk, where there’s actually strategy and that is what I tried to do this year and it really helped out.”
What is the most important part of the race for a sprinter?
“A lot of it is the block start. Having a good start is really what you need to do and finishing. You don’t want to die at the end, you want to drive your arms through it and stay strong.”
How tired are you after a track meet?
“It’s quite a bit of energy. I used to do the 100, 200, 400 and 4 x 400 [relay] for more than one meet my junior year. I actually did it almost every meet and I’d be really tired at the end of it...But just running the 100 and 200 at Meet of Champions, that was tiring. A sprint comes out of your legs, so it’s hard to save that. Doing a lot is hard for sprinters.”
What are your plans for next year? Are you going to run anywhere?
“I am running track at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. They are Division III, but I honestly didn’t care about what division I was in. It’s not a big deal for me. It was all about academics first.”