NRHS student runs into a new sport

Published 10:38 pm Friday, August 9, 2013

Fifteen-year-old Kevin Tohak wears a gold medal he earned after winning in the 19-and-under age group at the recent Run for the Homefront 5K in Virginia Beach. It is the latest step in Tohak's rapid development as a runner, an athletic endeavor he started less than a year ago.

Fifteen-year-old Kevin Tohak wears a gold medal he earned after winning in the 19-and-under age group at the recent Run for the Homefront 5K in Virginia Beach. It is the latest step in Tohak’s rapid development as a runner, an athletic endeavor he started less than a year ago.

Rising sophomore Kevin Tohak was known as a baseball player entering high school, yet he is now an emerging force in the running circuit.

As part of a fall season tune-up recommended by Nansemond River High School cross country coach Kurt Straub, Tohak competed in and won the recent Run for the Homefront 5K in Virginia Beach for the 19-and-under age group.

In a field of 11 runners, he won with a time of 19:47, one second better than the runner-up, on a day that Straub described as “muggy and nasty.” He said Tohak performed well, but his average time for the 5K distance is even better, registering in the high 18s and low 19s.

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Tohak began running cross country and track for the first time as a ninth-grader at Nansemond River, and one of the things that has helped him develop so quickly is self-motivation.

“Once (outdoor) track season ended, I started running by myself,” he said.

The Run for the Homefront event came after a significant summer lull in terms of events, but Tohak had not been idle.

“I’ve been running pretty much four times a week before (the Homefront 5K),” he said, alternating in distance between two and five miles.

Summer can be a dead period for runners, and Straub recommended the 5K as a good option to help keep in shape.

“It’s better if they just actually go out and run a race, just because of the competitiveness of it,” he said.

Tohak said bringing two of his Nansemond River teammates along served as a motivator during the race. Fellow rising sophomores Logan O’Leary and Nick Viado came in fifth and seventh, respectively.

Straub credited Nansemond River track coach Justin Byron for developing Tohak’s speed.

Byron deflected praise back to Straub, saying that the coach gave him a very good base.

“His endurance was already off the charts; he could run for days,” Byron said.

The only things he lacked were aspects of coordination, technique and speed mechanics that Byron helped with.

But Byron ultimately pointed to Tohak’s strong character as what drives his success.

“That’s really what it comes down to,” he said. “Kevin is a great kid, and he is very coachable.”

His combined qualities have added up to his rapid development as a runner in less than a year.

“He’ll be one of my top five runners this year, and last year, he wasn’t even in my top seven,” Straub said.

Cross country practices for the fall season began on Monday.