Gabby Thomas 2nd in professional sprinting debut at New Balance Indoor Grand Prix

  • Gabby Thomas, of Florence, smiles after competing in the 300 at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, Saturday in Boston. Thomas made her professional debut at the event. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Northampton High School students Cole Lavalle, from left, Ben Gordon Sniffen, Tucker Quinlan and Ethan Cooper pose with Gabby Thomas, center, at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, Saturday in Boston. COURTESY MICHAEL QUINLAN

Staff writer
Published: 1/26/2019 9:55:02 PM

BOSTON — Gabby Thomas waved to a roaring crowd as she was announced before her professional debut.

“A senior at Harvard University, the first ever Ivy League NCAA champion at 200 meters indoors, from the USA, Gabrielle Thomas,” the announcer boomed.

Thomas, a Florence native, signed with New Balance in October and targeted Saturday’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix at the Reggie Lewis Center for her debut. It’s the first stop on the IAAF World Indoor Tour that includes stops in Germany, Spain, Great Britain and Poland.

New Balance hooked her up with a brand new set of matching lime green shorts, top and cleats for the race.

She competed in the second of two 300-meter dash heats. While Thomas specializes in the 200, she regularly ran the 300 in the first meets of her collegiate seasons.

“Normally I just kind of run it, I save some gas for the end,” she said.

After watching Kendall Ellis, the bronze medalist in the 400 at last year’s U.S. outdoor championships, throw down a 36.97 in the opening heat, Thomas knew she needed to take the race out faster.

She drew lane five, the middle position between Shakimba Wimbley, silver medalist in the 400 at the 2018 indoor world championships, and Brionna Thomas, a Purdue graduate and All-American 400 runner.

Gabby Thomas started inside of and behind Wimbley but caught her by the time they worked around the far curve. She maintained that lead down the back stretch and through the light blue tape at the finish line.

“Shakimba is an outstanding runner, she has a really great finish, so I was looking over my shoulder like ‘OK, she’s probably right behind me,’” Thomas said.

Thomas is trying to balance her focus on her technique and ability to let go and power through with physicality.

“In a race like this it’s going to feel like beast mode no matter what, so I was trying to hone in on my technical part,” Thomas said.

She finished in 37.03 seconds, .15 seconds clear of Wimbley but behind Ellis.

“I think if I was running next to her in that heat it would have been different. It was a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be, but it is really early in the season, so I’m not too upset about that,” Thomas said. “It’s a lot more fun than I thought it would be. The energy here is so amazing. I looked so cute in my New Balance gear, which I love.”

Leaving the track, she stopped and took pictures with or signed autographs for everyone who asked. Northampton High School’s sprint medley relay team that competed earlier in the meet gave her a blue Northampton jersey with “Hamp” written in yellow across the front to hold while they posed with her for a photo.

“I love my supporters, and I think it’s really important to acknowledge people who take time out of their day to congratulate you or wish you good luck,” Thomas said. “They make what I do so much more fun, and I know how it feels to look up to certain runners.”

Her professional debut complete, Thomas hopped in an Uber back to her house on Harvard’s campus. Saturday was as close to a home meet for her as anyone.

She’ll next compete at the New York Road Runners Millrose Games Feb. 9 in New York, where she will run the 400 for the first time as an individual.

“This was so much fun, I’m really happy with it,” she said.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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