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It’s unclear how long Thomas Thomsen had to wait to find out if his season had come to an anticlimactic end. Is an eternity an official length of time at a track meet?

Thomsen, a senior at Montgomery High, had battled all season long with Maria Carrillo’s Zack Nelson for supremacy in the 110-meter high hurdles. Thomsen, who made it to the finals of the North Coast Section Meet of Champions last year as a junior, had emerged this season as the guy to beat, posting the best times in the region. At the North Bay League prelims on May 10, he was a lock to advance to the finals.

Turns out the fourth hurdle had something else in mind.

Thomsen clanged into the 39-inch hurdle and lost all momentum. He cleared the remaining six hurdles and ran through the line, but his time was nowhere near his best. And more important, his place was one off from the qualifying mark. Only eight runners compete in the finals. Thomsen had finished in ninth.

“He thought he was done,” Vikings hurdles coach Stephanie Fernandez said.

But it took the public address announcer calling out who would be competing in the finals two days later to make it sink in.

“They announced the lineup without my name on it and that’s when I knew,” Thomsen said. “I was super upset. I almost broke out into tears.”

Hurdles are a discipline of finesse and rhythm. Thomsen said he didn’t keep his head in it. He was racing for the finals on Friday instead of the race in front of him.

“Basically I went into the preliminary NBLs thinking there is no way I’m not going to qualify,” he said. “I kind of wasn’t in the zone.”

Watching the race unfold was heartbreaking, said Fernandez.

“Once your rhythm in a hurdle race is off, your whole race is off,” she said. “When you take such a fall like that, it is so hard to get back into rhythm.”

It was crushing.

“After training so hard and having such high expectations from my coach and everything and my dad was there, it was such a disappointment,” Thomsen said.

But there were murmurs that another runner might not keep his spot. Then Thomsen’s teammate, Hunter Wagner — a pole vault specialist who had qualified in the top eight — offered to give up his lane to Thomsen.

“It was a complicated time,” Fernandez said. And Thomsen’s senior season hung in the balance.

In the end, Rancho Cotate’s Joel Moret scratched his spot in the finals and Thomsen was back in business.

“(Moret) walked up to me and said, ‘I’m not going to run it,’” he said. “Joel and I are friends, we’ve hung out. I was so thankful.”

Thankful and determined to make things right.

Two days later at the NBL finals, Thomsen had a “darker” mindset. He wanted vengeance — on himself, on his own performance, and on that sucky outside lane he was stuck in because he was the eighth seed.

“My mentality that day was, ‘I’m in lane 8 and no one believes I’m going to PR in the worst lane in track and field,’” he said. “I totally embarrassed myself on Wednesday and I have to prove myself. And that’s what I did.”

Thomsen ripped off a 15:07 — well better than his fastest time ever and a time that puts him eighth among the Redwood Empire’s all-time fully automated, wind-legal bests.

“Getting an athlete pissed off can be very valuable — if done correctly,” co-head coach Melody Karpinski said. “When it does happen and they react the right way, sometimes it teaches them to turn a bad race into a good one for the next event.”

Thomsen has been reacting the right way for the past two weeks.

And if hurdles are all about momentum, then he has been riding the wave of the NBL finals since May 12.

He finished first at the NCS Redwood Empire area meet on May 20, and then, at the NCS Meet of Champions in Berkeley last Saturday, he gutted his way to a third-place finish — and a spot in the CIF state track and field championship in Clovis this weekend.

His margin of victory over the fourth-place finisher? .02 seconds.

“I actually thought the guy totally beat me and I kind of accepted it,” he said. “I walked over to the podium and then (the announcer) said ‘Thomsen.’ I couldn’t believe I was going.”

So in this postseason that has seen Thomsen swing from the worst race of his life (although he insists he actually went under a hurdle once in middle school) to the fastest to perhaps the grittiest, he has booked a fairly improbable ticket to Clovis.

“His finish was awesome,” Fernandez said of the margin of victory at MOC last weekend. “He really sprinted through the line and that’s what got him that race.”

Thomsen didn’t want to leave anything to chance. And he didn’t want to see his effort wasted. Not again.

“He put in a lot of offseason work,” Fernandez said. “He’s just so much more disciplined. He’s taking care of his body, taking ice baths. I tell him to do something, he’ll do it. He’s so open-minded for advice and help from others.”

Thomsen will be joined in Clovis by another Viking, 200-meter junior Jaymes Tischbern. It marks the first time in a decade that a Montgomery athlete has competed in the state meet, according to co-head coach Bryan Bradley.

But competing among California’s best also means that Thomsen faces the dilemma that area athletes wrestle with when it comes to the state meet and high school graduation: Walk or run? Montgomery’s graduation ceremony is Friday night and is set to begin at 6:30 p.m., approximately 14 minutes after the gun goes off in Clovis for the 110-meter hurdles.

Thomsen, who is bound for UC Santa Cruz in the fall, chose to compete rather than attend graduation. It was a tough call, but after seeing his season nearly end with the clank of a hurdle two weeks ago, Thomsen wants to squeeze every last minute out of what time he’s got left.

And you can bet he’ll be in the zone in Clovis.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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