It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Raven Thomas.
Not content with her Region 2-AAAA title in the 400 meter dash, the junior broke the Statesboro school record and won an individual state title in the event Saturday at the GHSA girls state track and field meet in Albany.
With a blistering time of 55.49 seconds, Thomas set the new school mark while beating out the best that the AAAA classification had to offer.
“Setting the school record has been a personal goal since my freshman year,” said Thomas. “It feels great to finally achieve that, and to win state while doing it is something I wouldn’t have even imagined.”
Despite turning in solid times throughout the season, Thomas’ time at the region meet was slowed by a slick track, and her performance in Friday’s preliminaries advanced her into Saturday’s final, but was only the fifth fastest time turned in.
With just one more race to go, some last-second strategy helped put Thomas in a better position in the final.
“I thought that she was pressing a little too hard during the first 200 meters,” said Statesboro coach Rico Campbell. “After her qualifying race, we talked it over and discussed how she wanted to handle all of the phases of the final race. She held back a little bit at the beginning so that she wouldn’t be worn down at the end.”
“Coach just told me to find the girl with the best time and hang in there,” said Thomas. “I just trailed her for awhile and didn’t push myself too soon. I knew that I would be able to finish strong.”
Even in a race that was over in less than a minute, the cat-and-mouse strategy paid off.
With the fresher legs to burn down the stretch, Thomas was able to pull away from the pack and catch the leaders.
“After 200 meters, I wasn’t too sure about things,” said Thomas. “I just kept running my race, and with 100 meters left, I thought I could do it. I was tired and not feeling great, but my coaches and friends and teammates all had me motivated. I gave it everything I had and was able to get past everyone.”
For Thomas, the third time turned out to be the charm.
After qualifying for the state finals in both her freshman and sophomore seasons, she was prepared for the level of competition and wanted to make sure that she wouldn’t be beaten to the line again.
“She’s been so close before,” said Campbell. “She finished third in her freshman year and last year, she was right there down the stretch before fading at the end. This year, she was extremely motivated. A girl from Bainbridge had a good lead halfway through, but Raven just ran her down.
“It was Raven’s day. Just seeing her right before that race, I would have believed she could accomplish anything on that track.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.