'I did what I had to do'
Del Norte's Thomas wins 800, 3,200 championships at state meet
By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
ALBUQUERQUE, May 17, 2012
(Courtesy photo - Eugene R. Begay)
I f you ask Del Norte High's Jackson Thomas why he's become such a successful runner in the last year, he'll say it's the confidence he developed from winning the Narbona Pass Classic last summer."That is where it started," Thomas said of the 6.1-mile race held in the Chooshgai Mountains. "That is where the winning began."
His mother, Susanne Notah, thinks it began there, too.
"I think him winning that race and knowing what he could do with the best challenge on the reservation put in his mind and soul that 'I can do this. I can win my races. I can push myself to be the number one runner,'" she said.
Since then, Thomas, who is originally from Naschitti, N.M., has been on a tear.
This past fall he won his first state title, winning the Class 4A cross-country championship.
His cross-country title was followed with more hardware this past weekend at the New Mexico Track and Field Championships where he won the Class 4A 3,200- and 800-meter races. He finished runner-up in the 1,600-meter race.
"I've been waiting for this moment since my junior year," Thomas said of his near sweep of the long-distance events. "It feels good."
In the 3,200, which required some strategy because of stormy weather and wind gusts, Thomas led the pack from beginning to end.
He finished with a time of 9:46.86. Los Alamos' Sean Reardon was second with a time of 9:47.33, while Ethan Long of Albuquerque Academy came in third with a time of 9:54.47.
The strategy for the 3,200, Thomas said, was to let other runners lead the pack. But as it turned out, the strategy was short-lived.
"My strategy was to see if anyone would take the lead but no one took it," Thomas said. "I knew I was going to get a horrible time with the wind, so I just went for the win. I did what I had to do and got it."
The 800-meter race was the one he was most satisfied with.
"I improved by two seconds," he said, explaining that his qualifying time for the 800 was 1:58.
On Saturday, he beat that time by finishing two seconds faster at 1:56.
He beat out Morarity's Austin Anaya (1:57) and Atrisco Heritage's Gilbert Ramirez (1:59) for the state title.
For Thomas, improvement in time means everything.
"All I want is a better time," he said. "To see myself improve, like how hard I worked, to get this time and have a whole other week to work and beat that time again. I just like that."
Following the 800-meter race, and with less than two hours of rest, Thomas turned his attention to the 1,600.
For most of this race, Thomas led the pack until the final lap where he was passed by Los Alamos' Reardon. Reardon won with a time of 4:23, while Thomas placed second with a 4:27. Albuquerque Academy's Ethan Long finished third (4:30).
Asked if he was satisfied with a runner-up finish, Thomas responded, "I felt really tired. The 800 took most of the strength from me. That was my best time."
Even so, Thomas said he was satisfied and gave credit where it was due.
"I had fun racing him," Thomas said of Reardon. "This is state. He was ready and wanted it. He got it."
With a successful senior year now in his rearview, Thomas, who graduates today from Del Norte, now turns his future to college.
"I'm going to miss high school," he said. "My coaches told me I could be a state champ if I kept working hard, pushing myself and dedicating myself. So I put my mind to it and started working hard. I stayed in school and stayed out of trouble. I got it."
Del Norte head coach Fred Polich was excited for Thomas.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing what he will run in college being that track is kind of new for him," Polich said. "He's got so much more potential in the future. We still don't know where he is going to go."
Polich said Thomas has offers from the University of New Mexico and Central Arizona College.
"But I am looking forward to seeing what he will do in college and the races on the side," Polich added.
Thomas will participate in the 36th Annual Great Southwest Track and Field Classic Days June 2 to 4.
And if there is one race he can draw strength from to do well at this competitive meet, it is certainly the confidence he gained from the Narbona Pass Classic.
"That is when I started to win races and stuff," Thomas said. "It's longer than high school. I was thinking if I could run through that much pain, run through those hills and everything, then I could do good. Before you know it, I started winning."