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.”