St. Benedict's Torchia sisters bonded by running

ST. JOSEPH, Minn. — Sisters Katy, Kelsey and Sarah Torchia have more in common than a sisterly bond and identical collegiate choices.

The Rochester Lourdes graduates and members of the St. Benedict cross country and track and field teams also know the adversity that comes with battling through physical ailments.

Katy, a senior, missed all of last cross country season with an Achilles tendon injury, and will return to the Blazers for another year of eligibility next fall as a result.

Kelsey, a sophomore, suffered an asthma attack, then a bout with mononucleosis and a respiratory virus at the end of the cross country season last fall -- an illness that kept her out the first half of the track and field season last spring.

And Sarah, a freshman, missed most of the season this fall after undergoing surgery for Compartment Syndrome -- a compression of nerves and blood vessels within an enclosed space -- in both of her shins this past summer.


"Injuries are the great equalizer," Sarah said. "There's no distinction between who is the oldest and who is the youngest. We all understand what each other has had to go through."

But if there has been a bright spot to the physical ailments the sisters have faced, it is that it will give them more time together as teammates.

Sarah was finally able to compete in a meet along with her sisters last Saturday (she was 71st out of 74 runners; Katy was 12th and Kelsey 40th) . Then there is track this spring and cross country again next fall.

"During my senior year of high school, Sarah, Kelsey and I all ran together at the state meet," said Katy, who plans to graduate in the spring of 2012. "Then there was a Roy Griak (cross country meet at the University of Minnesota) where my parents had all five of their kids (including two brothers) competing. I know how excited they were about those meets. They talked about them for weeks and weeks afterward.

"Now I have a whole extra year left and that's just another chance to be together with my sisters."

The chance to be together with Katy is part of what drew both Kelsey and Sarah to St. Benedict. But it wasn't the only reason.

"Katy was definitely a draw," Kelsey said. "But I think we all picked the school for different reasons. I had an art scholarship and I loved the balance between athletics and academics they have here."

"There was never any pressure from either (Katy or Kelsey)," Sarah added. "It was more them telling me they'd love it if I came. But there was no pressure. They both would have supported me wherever I wanted to go.


"Honestly, having them both here almost made me not want to come. I didn't want to come across as just a follower. But when I saw how happy they both were here, and when I looked at the school myself, I knew it was the place for me."

Blazers coach Robin Balder-Lanoue said each sister has a very distinct and separate personality.

"Katy is the organized one," Balder-Lanoue said. "She's kind of the caretaker. Kelsey is more about stopping to smell the roses. She's very artistic. And Sarah is just full of social energy. She's very outgoing."

Balder-Lanoue said each sister helps push the others.

"They interact like you'd expect families to interact," Balder-Lanoue said. "They're very up front and honest with each other."

Having two older sisters with her every day has helped keep Sarah motivated as she's recovered from her surgery.

"I know they're not going to cut me any slack, that's for sure," Sarah said. "They'll ask me how I'm feeling and how my training is going. They won't let me skip out on a day. That's the honesty thing again. We're not afraid to keep it real."

And when Sarah does get back, both Katy and Kelsey know she will be on their tail.


"Oh, she'll come after us, there's no doubt," Katy said. "We're definitely competitive with each other. But it's a healthy competition. We all try to push each other to get better."

And all three sisters can't wait for that first meet when they all share the same starting line.

"I think I'm just going to feel a really intense sense of pride," Kelsey said. "We're so blessed to get this opportunity to all be together. That doesn't happen a lot, especially at the college level. We're very fortunate."

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