Gabby Thomas on Being in the Moment

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In taking on the work of the classroom, a champion sprinter found her focus for running

For one of the nation’s fastest female runners, Gabby Thomas had a slow start warming up to the sport. At Williston, her mother saw her speed on the soccer field, and pushed her to try track. Good thing, because it wasn’t long before Gabby was breaking school records in the 100-meter dash, the long jump, and the triple jump, and then taking home gold at the New England Championships. Now running for Harvard University, Gabby competed at the Olympic Trials in July and just missed earning a slot on the team, finishing sixth in the 200-meter final. When she’s back in Easthampton, you might find her eating cake batter ice cream at Mt. Tom’s.

Which teacher or coach had the most impact on you?
Ms. McCullagh, my track coach, was so encouraging and supportive in every aspect of my life. Even now she’s incredibly supportive. She’s been to more of my races than my parents have. And my soccer coach, Ms. Davey, was actually one of the biggest influences in athletics, giving me this sense of being part of a team and working hard. She gave us a lot of tough love.

How did you feel about running track at first?
The first few days were really tough. There were a lot of Upper Schoolers, and it was super intimidating and scary. It was a lot of running, and I didn’t like that at all. It got better as I got older. It wasn’t until my sophomore year when I started setting goals for myself and realizing that I could do something with track, that it was more than a sport I was forced to do after school. I started to really enjoy it and take it seriously. At the New England Championships, my sophomore year, I was trying to break the school record in the 100-meter dash [which she did, clocking in with a time of 12.06 seconds]. I was so excited to break the record, and I loved that feeling.

Describe the feeling you have when you’re running fast.
If you asked me that last year, it would have been different than it is this year. This year, my racing really is 100 percent about focus. If you’re super nervous or anxious or excited and you have that adrenalin rush, you need to put that aside for a minute and just really focus on executing what you’re supposed to be executing. It takes a lot of focus not to be looking at the girls next to you or worrying about the end result of the race. I’m trying to be in the moment. Last year, it was about the race feeling super fast and exhilarating, and before you know it, it’s over.

Your training is rigorous. How did Williston help you develop your focus and mental toughness?
I’m sure I got a lot of the skills that I have now from Williston. There was so much studying, which requires a lot of focus and time management, and pushing yourself past yourself.

What music do you listen to when you’re getting ready for a meet?
I have a pump-up play list that I listen to. On that you can find Kanye West and some super-poppy songs.