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Sprinting to the front

2013 FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

  • Recent Conant graduate Katie Tonyai, right, dominated the competition this year. She won all but one regular season race in the 100, 200 and 400 meters and went on to capture her second straight Division III titles in the 100 and 200. Tonyai was also second in the 100 and third in the 200 at Meet of Champions.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    Recent Conant graduate Katie Tonyai, right, dominated the competition this year. She won all but one regular season race in the 100, 200 and 400 meters and went on to capture her second straight Division III titles in the 100 and 200. Tonyai was also second in the 100 and third in the 200 at Meet of Champions.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • In addition to her success on the outdoor track, Tonyai also had quite the winter season. She won the 55-meter title at the D-II meet and finished second in the 300.(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    In addition to her success on the outdoor track, Tonyai also had quite the winter season. She won the 55-meter title at the D-II meet and finished second in the 300.(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • The Conant track team hosted a five-team meet on Saturday, April 13, 2013..<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Conant track team hosted a five-team meet on Saturday, April 13, 2013..

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • Recent Conant graduate Katie Tonyai talks to first-year track and field coach Erin Kelly after a dominating performance in the 100 meters at the season opening meet. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    Recent Conant graduate Katie Tonyai talks to first-year track and field coach Erin Kelly after a dominating performance in the 100 meters at the season opening meet.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • The Conant track team hosted a five-team meet on Saturday, April 13, 2013..<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Conant track team hosted a five-team meet on Saturday, April 13, 2013..

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • mascenic field hockey v conant

    mascenic field hockey v conant

  • mascenic field hockey v conant

    mascenic field hockey v conant

  • After scoring three goals and dishing out three assists this fall, Tonyai was named to the Division III first-team all-state and selected for the Twin State team.

    After scoring three goals and dishing out three assists this fall, Tonyai was named to the Division III first-team all-state and selected for the Twin State team.

  • mascenic field hockey v conant

    mascenic field hockey v conant

  • Recent Conant graduate Katie Tonyai, right, dominated the competition this year. She won all but one regular season race in the 100, 200 and 400 meters and went on to capture her second straight Division III titles in the 100 and 200. Tonyai was also second in the 100 and third in the 200 at Meet of Champions.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • In addition to her success on the outdoor track, Tonyai also had quite the winter season. She won the 55-meter title at the D-II meet and finished second in the 300.(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant track team hosted a five-team meet on Saturday, April 13, 2013..<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Recent Conant graduate Katie Tonyai talks to first-year track and field coach Erin Kelly after a dominating performance in the 100 meters at the season opening meet. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant track team hosted a five-team meet on Saturday, April 13, 2013..<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • mascenic field hockey v conant
  • mascenic field hockey v conant
  • After scoring three goals and dishing out three assists this fall, Tonyai was named to the Division III first-team all-state and selected for the Twin State team.
  • mascenic field hockey v conant

I will never forget the moment when I realized just how fast Katie Tonyai is.

Last April, I thought it would be a good idea to compete against members of the Conant track and field team in a friendly challenge. But the real purpose of it all was to test my abilities against Tonyai in a sprint.

I knew I had no chance, but I still wanted to see just how much speed she really had. It didn’t take long.

Less than 20 meters into the 200-meter race, Tonyai had already blown past me and eventually finished almost 10 seconds ahead of me and I don’t even know if she ran her hardest.

Something tells me she did just because she is so dedicated to her workouts, but I would also not be surprised if she took it easy on me because of how nice Tonyai is.

At least I am not alone. For much of the last four years, sprinters from all over the state have been tormented by Tonyai’s talent. They have had the same view of Tonyai pulling away from them as I did a little over a year ago. At some point, many must have accepted the fact that they were essentially racing for second place when Tonyai was lined up on the blocks.

That’s just because Tonyai rarely finishes anywhere but first. She has been so dominant for the last couple years that she probably caused a few nightmares along the way.

If she had been able to sneak up any opponents last spring, it would not be the case this year. The word was definitely out about Tonyai and she lived up to the hype.

While Tonyai runs in the winter and spring, she actually spent her fall sprinting in a different way — for a field hockey ball.

Her quickness played a big part in her success during the field hockey season. As a forward, Tonyai would at times require extra attention from opposing defenses because it was so hard for one player to keep up.

She finished with three goals and three assists in her senior season, with one helper coming in a 1-0 overtime win at rival Mascenic’s homecoming, while also helping the Orioles return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. And her talents did not go unnoticed.

Tonyai was a Division III first-team all-state selection and invited to try out for the New Hampshire Twin State team. Over 70 seniors participated in the tryout and Tonyai was one of 20 to make the team, but had to give up her roster spot due to a previous commitment.

But while Tonyai was good on the field hockey field, she was dominant on the track.

Over the years, Tonyai had tried some longer distances, but felt at her best in the sprinting department. The wins and times support that.

From day one of the indoor season, Tonyai established herself as one of the sprinters to beat. She swept the 55 and 300-meter events at the season opener in December and made it a trend throughout the winter.

She was undefeated in the 55-meter finals during the regular season and only finished outside of first place in two preliminary races — where she took second both times. Tonyai won four out of five races in the 300 and went into the Division II Championships ranked first in the 55 and second in the 300.

And that is exactly how she would finish at the final state meet of her indoor career.

Tonyai’s win in the 55 meters, in 7.39 seconds, was her first indoor title, while she was just .06 seconds off the winning pace in the 300 to take her second straight runner-up finish in the event.

In her second trip to the New England Championships, which was held almost a month after the D-II meet, Tonyai was 19th in the 300 and third from New Hampshire.

And all that success on the indoor track carried right over into her final outdoor season. While the distances were different, the results were not.

Tonyai won both the 100 and 200 meters at last year’s Division III Championships and early on it looked as though she was the favorite to repeat in both.

She swept the events at the season opener at home — something that became a regular occurrence throughout the year. Her only second place in the 100 meters came at the Merrimack Invite when 63 other runners competed.

Tonyai won all seven of her 200-meter races and in the two times she ran the 400, an event she placed second in at last year’s D-III meet, she won those too.

Obviously she was the top rated sprinter in both the 100 and 200 at the end of the regular season and deservedly so. Not only were her times the best in the division, but her only loss came to an out of division opponent. Nobody in Division III had proven they could beat her and they never did.

Tonyai ran the 100 in 12.79 seconds and the 200 in 26.03 to capture the third and fourth D-III outdoor titles of her career.

But while those wins were nice, Tonyai had more work to do. She was sixth in the 200 and 400 at last spring’s Meet of Champions, but knew she could do better.

And this was her final chance.

So Tonyai went out and ran her best times of the season, finishing second in the 100 in 12.37 seconds and third in the 200 with a time of 25.30.

It also meant a third straight trip to New Englands, where she was 22nd in the 200 and 23rd in the 100 despite a lingering knee issue.

When Tonyai’s career was all said and done, she owned five individual Conant sprinting records, the 55 and 300 in indoor, as well as the 100, 200 and 400 for outdoor. She also helped two relay teams achieve the same place in the history books.

And while you never know what the future holds, it might be safe to say that Tonyai’s records may stick around for a while.

She has set a standard for future Conant sprinters to strive for and will certainly go down as one of the best.

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