Gabby Thomas returns to USATF Outdoor National Championships aiming for worlds team spot

  • New Balance announced on Monday, Oct. 8 that it signed Harvard senior Gabby Thomas to a multi-year contract.

Staff Writer
Published: 7/26/2019 8:02:36 PM

As she prepares to run in the USATF Outdoor National Championships for the first time in three years this weekend, Gabby Thomas is no longer a wide-eyed college freshman looking up to her sprinting role models.

Now she’s a college graduate and professional who views those role models as peers.

It’s been a really slow transition. Over the four years I’ve grown so much as an athlete,” Thomas said over the phone this week.

That wasn’t the case in 2016 when the Florence native had just completed her freshman season at Harvard. She entered the meet, which also served as the Olympic Trials before Rio, with much lower expectation than she has this weekend.

“I just remember being starstruck watching them run and not really expecting much,” Thomas said. “Now I’m there to actually do something. I’m confident I can make a Worlds team, that’s the goal. I do still look up to them, but I definitely see them more as competitors, and I see myself as a competitor.”

She’s entered in her signature 200-meter dash, and the first round begins at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Drake Stadium. The top four athletes in each of the five heats advance to Sunday’s 6:14 p.m. semifinal. Those will be narrowed down to the eight fastest for the final at 8:43 p.m. aired live on NBC.

Thomas is running in the second heat in lane seven with 2016 Olympian Deajah Stevens. Thomas has the fastest seed time in the heat and the third fastest time in the entire field behind Jenna Prandini, a 2016 Olympian, and Sha’Carri Richardson, who just set the 100-meter collegiate record at LSU. There are four Olympians and three world champions in the field.

“Ooh, it’s a good field,” Thomas said, laughing.

The top three finishers will qualify for the IAAF World Championships Sept. 27-Oct. 6 in Doha, Qatar. Thomas is confident she can reach that point after an up and down summer.

She graduated from Harvard, then spent “maybe 24 hours” in Northampton before leaving for Europe for six weeks. Thomas competed in five Diamond League meets there, vacationed with friends in Barcelona and joined the Harvard track and field team on its training trip to England. She won in Lausanne, Switzerland, and placed third in Oslo.

“I was a little frustrated with how I’ve been running, but that was a result of everything that’s been happening so suddenly with graduation and all this transition and not being with my coach for six weeks,” Thomas said. “I’m really optimistic about the rest of the season because the last couple weeks of training with my coach have been so much better.”

She and longtime coach Kebba Tolbert have locked in on the 200 over the past two weeks since she returned to Boston.

“I’ve been doing a lot of 200-specific training, which I think has been really helpful. Mentally, I’m in a different place than I was a lot of the summer, so I feel really good mentally and emotionally,” Thomas said. “None of the rest of the season really matters, what matters is what you do on the line that day. That’s what I think about, and I know I’m capable.”

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

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