The heat sheets are posted and Jacob Thomson, a junior at Holy Cross High School, is seeded in the invitational section of the 3200 at the 45th annual Arcadia Invitational taking place Saturday evening in Arcadia CA, 17 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
In the history of the meet, 24 national records have been set and 125 meet participants have gone on to represent the United States in Olympic Games competition. In 2003, Bobby Curtis became the first (and only) Kentucky athlete to compete in this event running the states fastest 3200 time of 8:48.39, finishing 4th to American 10,000 meter Record Holder Chris Solinsky, who won with a time of 8:43.24.
Over the past 2 years, the nations top high school runners have competed in this event and 26 individuals have broken the 9:00 mark. On Saturday evening at 8:45 PST (11:45 EST), Thomson will toe the line with the nation’s best in an attempt to become only the second Kentucky high school runner to break 9:00.
Last season as a sophomore Thomson set his 3200 personal best time of 9:15.37 at the Oldham County Sundown Invitational winning the event by 24 seconds. Since then he has gained national recognition as a Footlocker National Finalist in XC and he currently holds the US#2 14:49.75 for 5000.
As he prepared to depart for California, Thomson provided the following thoughts on competing Saturday:
KY: Jacob, over the past year you have competed in several races against the best high school distance runners in the nation, with that experience, does preparing to compete at Arcadia feel any different than preparing for your previous races at that level of competition?
JT:Compared to other big meets, Arcadia definitely sticks out. This is one of the biggest and most competitive races I have ever competed in. I have prepared for this race just as I did for Foot Locker Nationals. I am racing most of the same people. I want to be aggressive and run as smart of a race as possible.
KY: What type of training and mileage are you currently doing to prepare for the 3200 on Saturday?
JT: My training hasn’t changed much at all this season. I am running 50-55 miles a week at this point.
KY: Having faced the majority of top individuals seeded to compete against you Saturday, and having watched videos of this event from previous years; what are your expectations going into the race?
JT: I want to run a smart race. I am more familiar now with how most people in this race and going to run, so I will use that to my advantage. My coach and I sat down and watched the race video from last year and he pointed out how Matt Jablonski and Scott Morgan ran very smart races.
KY: Athletes competing at this level in HS often lead and set the pace in local and regional meets from the start; do you mentally prepare and approach a race at this level differently when you know you are facing others with ability equal to your own?
JT: There is no doubt I mentally prepare for races like this differently from local races. More strategy comes into play at races of this magnitude. I can get away with tactical errors in local races, but here it could cost me big time. I don’t plan on going to the lead to start this race. I think the big pack will come through the mile just under 4:30, and then the real race will start after that.
KY: Having raced in California at the Footlocker National Final in December, and traveled to other regional races in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina, do you enjoy traveling out of state to face this level of competition?
JT: This is ironic because I was just talking to a classmate about where all running has taken me. We counted Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, and California. Running is the only way I could have traveled to these states. I am blessed to have the opportunity to compete in national races across the country. I have been surrounded with a great group of people, and I have no doubt I would have never made it this far without each and every one of them. My current and former coaches, family, friends, and the Holy Cross community have been such a strong support system for me. There are many people I know that will always be there whether I need running advice or help with school work. I would just like to thank them all for getting me this far.
KY: Over the next month you have a very competitive schedule planned – CA Arcadia 3200 (4/7), IN Franklin Central Showcase Mile (4/13), KY Eastern Relays 3200/1600 (4/27-4/28), Kentucky Dream Mile (5/4); are you excited about this time of year?
JT: All of these meets have been circled on my calendar for a long time. Last year was my building year. I built up a strong base which really helped me this past XC season. This year I will focus on running faster times and winning these meets. I am excited to go back to the IN Miracle Mile because the race was so thrilling. You literally felt like you were in a tunnel surrounded by fans the entire time. This year one of my best friends, Patrick Gregory, is going up with me which will add to the excitement.
KY: Following the bulk of your season schedule; what is your plan for post season competition? You are the defending State Class A champion at 800, 1600, and 3200; which event(s) will be your focus at the Kentucky State Meet?
JT: My coach and I still haven’t decided on post season meets or events yet. We are waiting to see what doors open up. I will definitely be going somewhere, but we aren’t sure yet. As for the state meet I will be running the 800, 1600, and 3200 again as the team is coming back to defend our team state title. The main focus, though, is on Bobby Curtis’s 4:13.16 1600 State record.