Monday Mix editorial: Hampshire County athletes finding success

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

Published: 10/13/2018 7:03:36 PM

Gabby Thomas, James Ihedigbo and Willy Workman. The future, past and present of Hampshire County’s professional athletes prove that hard work pays off.

Thomas, a Florence native and Harvard senior, forwent her final year of collegiate eligibility when she became the first female sprinter to sign a multi-year endorsement deal with Boston-based New Balance. The Williston Northampton graduate said the opportunity was too good to pass up. She will continue to train while she finishes her degree in neurobiology and a secondary degree in global health and health policy. Thomas has her sights set on the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.

The journey from western Massachusetts to the doorstep of the Olympics isn’t lost on Thomas: “I’m very aware of that all the time,” she told the Gazette. “It makes me unique. It shows how hard I work. I love that being a part of my story.”

Ihedigbo officially retired from the NFL earlier this year. He played for five teams during his 10-year career. He lost in Super Bowl 46 with the New England Patriots, but won with the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl 47.

Earlier this month, the Amherst Regional graduate returned home to be inducted into the UMass Athletics Hall of Fame. Ihedigbo worked hard for what he earned. He walked on at UMass his freshman year and turned that start into a lengthy, successful career. “There were times when I’d wake up at 6:30 in the morning to run stadium stairs here in the same exact stadium, preparing myself for the upcoming season, knowing I wanted to play at a higher level,” Ihedigbo told the Gazette. “Getting that opportunity to do that and going on to play in the NFL, it’s all truly been a blessing.”

Workman is entering his sixth season with Maccabi Haifa, a professional basketball club in Israel. Injuries sidelined him during his Northampton High School career. He got healthy, played ball at Deerfield Academy, then won a national championship at Amherst College. Workman and Maccabi Haifa were on the West Coast last week, playing against the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Clippers in NBA preseason.

We commend Thomas, Ihedigbo and Workman for making the most of their opportunities — and for being role models to other athletes in western Mass.

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