Thomas testing the waters
Lauren Thomas took a leap of faith a few years ago and it appears to be paying off.
The 16-year-old, Grade 10 student at Blessed Trinity was a member of the Lincoln Leapers, a competitive jump rope team for six years, until she decided to put down her skipping rope to concentrate on track full time.
“I used to do the elementary school meets and I used to enjoy running but this was still when I was in skipping so I decided to finish off skipping in Grade 6 and join track in Grade 7,” Thomas explained. “There was a progression into it and I really just started to have a passion for the sport.”
Thomas, who skipped competitively from ages six through 12, said that background has given her a foot up, so to speak.
“It’s helped me a lot,” she said. “I’m definitely more quick on my feet but I have to give it to skipping. It made me quick on my feet, on my toes all the time. I don’t think I’d be here today without it.”
Thomas, whose first high school track season was wiped out by the COVID pandemic, placed first in the novice girls 200 and 400 races Wednesday at the Niagara Catholic Athletic Association track and field meet at the Niagara Olympic Club.
“It really is (a big jump). I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t know what the competition was going be like,” she said. “In my elementary school meets I always did well and I was good for my age. When I got here I had no idea how good people we going to be.
“It was kind of scary, to be honest. Even though I’ve been training for track for four years, it’s a reach into the dark but I’m glad how it turned out.”
Thomas wasn’t overly concerned with her times Wednesday.
“It’s really hard to tell with these meets because they don’t go off times, they go off places,” she said. “The goal is to make it to OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) but I don’t even have that in mind. I’m just trying to focus on it step by step.”
Thomas said the low-key nature of the zone meet was a perfect way to start the high school season.
“For people who do club, these meets are kind of a breeze,” she said. “I was honestly just trying to get my name out there, get my times, get a feel for the season. I wasn’t too worried.”
It’s a far cry from a year ago when the pandemic cancelled high school athletics.
“It started off kind of rough, I’m not going to lie,” she said. “Getting off of COVID was a really big step for me. My times were lower than they have been but I’m proud of myself because I did progress and did get back to my standards and by the end of the summer I was where I wanted to be hitting PBs.”
NOC track coach Trevor Moore feels the sky is the limit for Thomas.
“I can see her doing very well,” said Moore, who has been coaching Thomas for four years. “I don’t know her competition but based on practice and what she’s done years prior, I think she can do very well and go very far provincially and nationally.
“Phenomenal athlete. She was a world-class jump roper before joining track, so she’s really fast.”
Moore said it’s been a different season with basically two grades of rookies to introduce to high school competition.
“Our Grade 10 students, we’re kind of treating them like Grade 9 students because they haven’t done this before so we don’t know anything about them or their competition,” he said. “The goals are similar to what a Grade 9 athlete’s goals would be. Go as far as possible and most high school athletes, their goal is OFSAA and doing well there and doing well individually.”
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