June 7, 2010
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
There is a lesson to be learned, a moral to be shared, in a long ago push from a mother that sent a slightly disgruntled, nine-year-old Lamaar Thomas toward the track.
It was a push that eventually would take Thomas to a track almost 3,000 miles away and into a spot in the NCAA championships.
The lesson/moral: Mother usually knows best.
"I wasn't too happy, at first," said Thomas, who actually came to New Mexico to catch footballs for Coach Mike Locksley. "It wasn't anything I looked at with any interest.
"I did it because my mom made me. She said I had to do it for at least one year and then if I didn't like it, I could quit. She said, `Just try it out.'"
Do you suppose that when Elwanda Thomas pointed her son's nose toward that track in Maryland that she thought the loving shove would lead all the way to the 2010 NCAA finals in Eugene, Ore.?
The speed locked in Thomas' talented body was never a secret and moms usually dream big things for their kids. You could see Thomas was an exceptionally fast athlete at an early age even though his slight frame was usually buried under a mound of football pads.
"I was always football," said Thomas. "I was good at football and I knew that's what I wanted from the beginning."
Thomas was a football player in mind and body long before he took his wheels to the track. And even when Elwanda pointed Lamaar toward the track, it was more of a football reason than a track reason.
"She knew it would help me in football because it would help make me faster," said Thomas.
Of course, Thomas ended up liking track for at least two reasons. He liked the competition. He liked beating the competition.
He tore up the track as a youth runner and went on to win state titles in Maryland at 55-meters and 100-meters. He was the state runner-up at 200-meters and was the Prince George's County and Star/Gazette Track Athlete of The Year.
And he went to Ohio State - to play football - where he finished fourth in the 100-meters at the 2009 Big 10 Track Championships and took gold on the Buckeye's 4x100 relay team.
This isn't the part of the story where Thomas veers off from his first love to hang up his football cleats to become a track star at UNM. Oh, he's doing just fine over on Coach Joe Franklin's corner of the athletic complex and is joining six other Lobos at the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships this Wednesday through Saturday in Eugene.
But Thomas came to UNM to play football. "I wasn't playing a lot on the football field (at Ohio State)," said Thomas. "I don't think they were happy with me running track, too. I felt if I wanted to play more, I needed a change.
"Coach Locksley recruited me out of high school. I think I'll get a fair chance to show my talents here."
Lobos At NCAAs
Chris Barnicle -10,000
Lee Emanuel - 1,500
Jacob Kirwa - 5,000
Lamaar Thomas - 100
Ruth Senior - Steeple
Deanna Young - T-jump
Sandy Fortner - Heptathlon
Thomas punched his ticket to the NCAA finals with a qualifying time (10.41) out of the NCAA West Regionals in Austin, Texas. The UNM sophomore isn't going to Eugene with visions of gold dancing in his head, but he is excited about the opportunity.
"This (NCAA finals) wasn't even a thought in my mind when I first came out for track," said Thomas. "I was just there to help the team out and maybe pick up a few points here and there. Going to regionals and then the championships, wasn't even something I thought about.
"Then my times starting getting pretty good and I started thinking I had a chance."
Thomas handed UNM some second-place points in the Mountain West Championships in both the 100-meters and 4x100 relay. He won't be among the favorites at 100-meters at the NCAA finals. He had the tenth best time in the NCAA West region and all 13 qualifiers out of the NCAA East Region had faster qualifying times than Thomas.
But he is in the hunt with the fastest of the nation's fastest.
"There will be a lot of fast guys there," said Thomas. "I'm excited. It will be fun to see where I'm at."
If there is a downside to advancing to the NCAA Regionals and the NCAA finals, it's that Thomas is missing some of that summer fun that Troy Hatton, the football strength and conditioning coach, has lined up for the dog days of summer.
The Locksley Lobos are enjoying some leisure time under the hot New Mexico sun. They get to pump some iron, maybe take a jog in the foothills.
"I don't think missing running a few stadium steps or a few 400s is going to hurt me," Thomas says through a laugh. "But I'll only miss the first week. I'll be back next week and I'm sure Coach (Hatton) will have something for me to do."