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Gabby Thomas finishes second in 200 at NCAA championships

  • Harvard junior Gabby Thomas runs the 200 during a semifinal heat at the NCAA championships, Thursday in Eugene, Oregon. Thomas finished second in the finals on Saturday. Courtesy Harvard Athletic Communications

  • Harvard junior and Florence native Gabby Thomas starts the 200-meter dash final, Saturday at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Oregon. Courtesy Harvard Athletic Communications

  • Harvard junior and Florence native Gabby Thomas crosses the 200-meter dash finish line, Saturday at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Oregon. Thomas placed second. Courtesy Harvard Athletic Communications

  • Harvard junior and Florence native Gabby Thomas sprints down the straightaway in the 200-meter dash final, Saturday at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Oregon. Thomas placed second. Courtesy Harvard Athletic Communications

  • Harvard junior and Florence native Gabby Thomas holds her second-place trophy in the 200-meter dash final, Saturday at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Oregon. Courtesy Harvard Athletic Communications

  • Harvard junior Gabby Thomas finishes the 200-meter dash during a semifinal heat at the NCAA championships, Thursday in Eugene, Oregon. Thomas finished second in the finals on Saturday. Courtesy Harvard Athletic Communications



For the Gazette
Sunday, June 10, 2018

EUGENE, Ore. — For the second straight season, Harvard junior Gabby Thomas endured hail and rain prior to the 200-meter finals at the NCAA championships. With one competition in these conditions already under her belt, Thomas prepared properly by staying extra warm and mentally focused.

Nonetheless, Thomas’ perfect season in the 200-meter dash came to a close as she finished second in 22.86 seconds, losing to USC’s Anglerne Annelus, who ran 22.76.

Ahead of Saturday’s finals, the Florence native and Williston Northampton graduate explained her strategy of coming out of the blocks hard to counter other strong finishers in the race. Expecting to compete with 400-meter champion Lynna Irby, Thomas lost to a 100-meter runner in Annelus. Irby placed third in 22.92.

“I think the last 100 for me today wasn’t as strong as usual, just technique-wise,” Thomas said. “I think that’s why I ended up losing. But I did go out and run that first 100 aggressively, which was my goal for the race, so I’m not mad about that.”

After two third-place finishes and now a second-place finish in the 200, Thomas is both satisfied and disappointed.

“I’m happy with second. Obviously I wanted to come in first given where my season’s been and how I’ve been doing and how I’ve progressed,” she said.

Before winning the indoor NCAA 200 title in March, Thomas hadn’t always had such high expectations of herself. In fact, she had a difficult time adjusting to the life of a student-athlete, as most do. In an interview with FloTrack, she said that she would often leave practices as a freshman crying due to the workout’s intensity.

“In high school, I did not train seriously at all,” Thomas told FloTrack. “I was fast, so I would go out to races and just win. I wouldn't even warm up. I would just eat a bag of chips and step to the line and just go.”

However, her early success in the sprints built confidence, especially her third-place finish at the NCAA championships as a freshman in 2016.

Ultimately, the hard work paid off: Thomas was unanimously voted most outstanding track performer at the Ivy League Championships this year and is on the watchlist for the women’s Bowerman Award, the Heisman Trophy of track and field.

Kebba Tolbert, Harvard’s sprints, hurdles and horizontal jumps coach, recruited Thomas and helped her stick with workouts despite their intensity. He noticed a resemblance of Thomas and former UTEP athlete Blessing Okagbare in terms of sprinting and jumping ability.

While Thomas competes in both types of events throughout the season, she has achieved her biggest accomplishments in the 200.

The 100-meter dash and jumps have been less successful on a national stage, though. On Thursday, Thomas failed to qualify for the 100 finals for the second consecutive season. She didn’t compete at the NCAA East Regionals in long jump even after winning the Ivy League Championships by over 1 foot, but as she considers her senior season, she is looking at adding to her NCAA repertoire.

“Oh yeah, long jump’s going to stay,” Thomas said. “Long jump’s fun. Maybe Coach will let me come here for long jump next year.”

At the Ivy League Championships, Thomas ran a 49.44-second split in the final leg of the 4x400 relay. She closed a 2.8-second gap on 2016 Ghana Olympian Akua Obeng-Akrofi to bring Harvard back and win.

So it’s possible the 400 will be Thomas’ extra event, not the 100 or jumps as she had hoped heading into this weekend.

“That has crossed my mind, yes. You don’t really want to admit that to yourself,” Thomas said. “I’ll definitely be running the [400] next year at least one time, that’s for sure.”

But she’s resisting the transition to a 400 runner for as long as possible. She had hoped that a successful 100 race at the NCAA championships would keep her coach from pushing the change.

“I was hoping to prove my coach wrong this meet ... didn’t quite go well,” she said

Last summer, Thomas elected to study abroad in Senegal and therefore not compete in the non-NCAA track season. Her plans for this summer are not clear yet, but she will stay busy running and working in some manner.

With one college season remaining, Thomas has not begun thinking about potential sponsorships. She is looking forward to the Olympic Trials next year.