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Damion Thomas aiming to translate NCAA form into World U20 Champs success

Jermaine Wright
NCAA Outdoor Championships (SPECIAL COVERAGE)


Coming off a fantastic debut collegiate season, Jamaican hurdler Damion Thomas is ready to write another chapter in his young career at the 2018 IAAF World U20 Championships in Finland.

The LSU freshman, fresh off his bronze medal in the 110 metres hurdles at the just concluded NCAA Outdoor Championships at historic Hayward Field, Oregon, USA, will report for the Jamaican Junior Trials seeking a second trip to the World Junior Championships.

The USA-born Thomas is hoping to have a better closing to this chapter after crashing out of the 2016 championships at the semifinal stage.


“The results of 2016 Worlds has really motivated me to want to come back and redeem myself. God’s willing, I feel I can really put together a great performance in Finland,” Thomas said in an interview with Sports At Your Fingertips.


The 18 year old will not be short on confidence after a successful NCAA campaign. He ends his rookie collegiate season as a two-time First Team All-American and the second-fastest hurdler in LSU history with a personal best of 13.44 seconds that he clocked on Wednesday in the semifinals.

He won Outdoor Nationals bronze (110m hurdles), SEC (Southeastern Conference) indoor (60m hurdles) and outdoor bronze as well as eaching the NCAA Indoor Championships finals.

Thomas also earned several honours for his efforts – he was named SEC Freshman Runner of the Year (Indoors) as selected by the league’s head coaches and was named SEC Freshman of Week multiple times.

Transitioning back to Junior hurdles

“Doing well at NCAA’s really gives me the confidence to know I can compete against some of the best athletes in the country,” the 2016 Jamaican National hurdles champion added.

Having run 13.39 (WIND: +2.3m/s), which is the 4th fastest time in the NCAA this season, 13.43 (+2.3m/s) and 13.44 (-0.8m/s) over the 42 inches height hurdles this season, consistently doing well against tough competition in the NCAA, the 2016 CARIFTA U18 110m hurdles champion is poised to significantly improve on his 13.78 personal best over the 39 inches junior height.

“Transitioning back to the junior height I am really curious to what I can run over the shorter height. With a finish like I had in the finals (NCAA Nationals) and a better start, anything is possible,” said Thomas.

Tenacious performance

That better start could have resulted in a better result and the unthinkable – beating the University of Florida phenom Grant Holloway, the event’s runaway favourite.

After getting out of the blocks slow, Thomas fought back and had himself in a great position to snatch the title away from the defending champion with two hurdles left. However, in what was almost a photo finish, Thomas lost the close battle by just two-hundredths of a second to Holloway and only one-hundredths of a second to a faster-finishing runner-up David Kendziera (Illinois).

The 6 foot 2 inches Thomas, who was one of the USA’s top sprint hurdle recruits in the Class of 2017, is still happy with the result.

“I’m very happy with the result, especially with how close it got towards the end. With a better start, the outcome of the race could have been different. It was my cleanest race of the season so far. I feel I put my all into that race.”

The Sunrise, Florida native was also not perturbed by the adverse weather conditions nor the daunting task of defeating the NCAA Indoor hurdles record holder.

“I was not intimidated by Holloway. Competing with him definitely gave me a lot more adrenaline heading into that final. Our East Regional meet was run in pouring rain. Conditions were bad but I was able to get a feel of what could come at Hayward. I was fully accepting of the wet conditions.”

Main reasons for successful season

Thomas also applied that same tenacious mentality to his rookie campaign, which is one of the main reasons for his success.

“I attribute my success first and foremost to the Man above for keeping me healthy physically and mentally. Even though I was a rookie, I never let it put a ceiling on the success I could have. I went into races feeling no pressure and knowing I could compete against World-Class men like Holloway and Ruebin Walters (Trinidad & Tobago). My Teammates also were big in pushing me every day of practice and keeping me accountable for my mistakes,” Thomas credited.

The Jamaica Junior Trials is slated for June 21 in Kingston, Jamaica. It will serve to select the national team that will represent the island at the IAAF World U20 Championships, set for July 10 – 15 in Tampere, Finland.

 

*Photo Credit: LSU Track

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