Athlete Spotlight: Drury's Laura Thomas
PITTSFIELD — With the school year wrapping up and the spring sports season with it, we invited down Drury track and field star Laura Thomas to chat for the weekly Athlete Spotlight series. Thomas, a javelin thrower, made two straight appearances in the MIAA All-State championships, including throwing in her senior year two days after sitting down with us. Thomas chatted a bit about how she picked up the javelin and learning her unique technique, life as a Drury athlete and student, her go-to order at the Hot Dog Ranch and much, much more.
THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE: Talk to me a little bit about how you got involved with track, and how you got involved with throwing the javelin?LAURA THOMAS: In eighth grade, I had my heart set on playing softball, and the gym coach, Jim Buffoni, came up to me and said 'you should really try track.' I was like 'no, no way, I don't run, I don't do any of this.' And he said 'no, you can throw things!' So in my head it got spinning, and then I was like you know what? New year, high school, totally different, might as well give it a shot. I absolutely loved it and never played softball again.
EAGLE: Did you start throwing right away when you came out?
THOMAS: Yeah. In eighth grade, I think that was the first thing I tried was javelin, and it was just so different from anything else I've done. I really enjoy doing it, especially because it's an individual thing. If you want to get better, you work with yourself in getting better. You don't have to rely on anybody else to make you stand out.
EAGLE: How difficult was it for you to learn the proper technique to throw far?
THOMAS: Being a softball player, I always thought you'd throw it kind of side-arm like a softball, and that is not how you do it because you will hit yourself in the back of the head. I did it a few times. It's, You have to run up, the way you are holding it, the trajectory, everything. Just learning, especially from upperclassmen. I had some nice people that were on the team with me and we just worked together. Watching YouTube videos and my coach explaining it to me. Through the past few years, I found what works better for me, because some people do a different type of run-up. I do a back step, and other people do a front step. People are always asking me 'why do you do that?' It's what I'm comfortable with and what I've always known how to do.
EAGLE: For people who don't know, when you say back step, front step, what do you mean by that?
THOMAS: When I get to, before I throw, people usually cross their back foot over their front foot a few times to build up the strength in their legs to throw it. I do kind of like a karaoke with my feet - like when you stretch — and my leg goes behind my front leg. Most people, you go to Western Mass. Or states, you don't see that a lot. But that's one thing I do, and people are always telling me I should change it and I don't — I have to stick to what I know how to do.
EAGLE: What's it like being on the Drury track team?
THOMAS: It's a lot of fun, because a lot of the kids are friends from school. This is the second year of me being captain of the team, and having a small team, it lets you know everybody on a personal level and know who is there to work hard and who isn't, kind of. Having a small team, it's easier to manage and really get people to learn new things and just help each other out a lot.
EAGLE: Does it make it interesting when you go to these bigger meets, that you go with a smaller group of people?
THOMAS: You show up to the Western Mass. Meet at Mohawk Regional High School, and there are teams with tents with 20 teams in it. We showed up, we had four kids qualified, only three actually went. This past weekend, at Western/Central championships, I was the only person from our school. Still, you have schools, especially from the Springfield area, even Pittsfield and Mount Greylock, they have numerous kids going. It's different, because you have to realize that you are the person representing your school, your town, your county. It's special to be that.
EAGLE: On that same vein, at some of these meets you're the only one on the team, but two years in a row you finished second in the Central/West meet and advanced to All-States; how proud are you of that accomplishment, and getting to go back this year?
THOMAS: I'm really happy with the progress I've made. Like I've said in past interviews with The Berkshire Eagle, I love it when it's hot out, and usually the track season is rainy and cold, and practice is rainy and cold, and I don't throw well in it. But usually, around this time it gets warm out and that's when I throw my best. I can just thank my coaches and my parents and my friends for going with me to these meets because I'm the only one. There's always my friends or my family that go with me to support me, and make me realize how much potential I had in doing this.
EAGLE: Where is your favorite place you've ever thrown at?
THOMAS: I really like to throw at Williams, because they have a paved runway. Fitchburg [State University] is where I threw my PR last year, so I liked it there.
EAGLE: What's it like being a Drury student?
THOMAS: It's really fun. In the community, you kind of hear some negative vibes from Drury with the small number of kids that we are getting and how there are middle schoolers up there now, but we really are a good, small school community. The seventh and eighth grade make up 200-and-something kids at this school now, but, it's really just, our numbers in sports are kind of dwindling a little bit, but the kids that we do have involved, especially in our girls and boys basketball programs and our girls soccer program is taking off now - it's just, I like it a lot.
EAGLE: What is one, or some, of your favorite classes you've taken?
THOMAS: I took "1960s" this year, and I enjoyed it a lot. We tie-dyed shirts, we learned all about the 60s. I took a leadership with my guidance counselor, Jamie Hamilton, that we helped plan student recognition nights and all the fun stuff, field day, and my math teacher, Ms. Andrews, I love math and she's one of my favorite teachers.
EAGLE: What does it feel like to know that you are done with school?
THOMAS: I cried on Friday as my last day. I told myself that I wasn't going ot, I was ready to go, it's fine, you're not going to miss it that much - but I did cry, because five years of your life are over. But, I"m looking forward to going to college in the fall, and knowing that I have those friends from those years going forward, is really special.
EAGLE: What are your plans for next year?
THOMAS: I'm planning to go to Quinnipiac into the business school.
EAGLE: What drew you to Quinnipiac and into business?
THOMAS: I actually wanted to be a physical therapist, but then I decided not to. I like math, I like to talk with people, and that really got me interested, just researching it online and everything. I'm undecided in the business program, so I'm going to to explore all the opportunities for me. Quinnipiac actually wasn't at the top of my list. I was going to go to Coastal Carolina University, until I went to accepted students day at Quinnipiac and they changed my mind, totally flipped me around, now that's where I'm going.
EAGLE: What was the hardest part of the college admissions process for you?
THOMAS: Probably just touring all of the schools over such a long period of time. My first tour, I went to Quinnipiac in April of my junior year, and over the summer I toured different places, then you get the letters in the mail from different schools offering you money, and it's like how could you pass up those opportunities? But you have to see what you think is the best fit for you. Even though some people might think its too expensive, or it doesn't have as good of a name as this school, you have to know what fits you - not what other people think about it.
EAGLE: What are some of your favorite hobbies and activities outside of athletics?
THOMAS: I enjoy just hanging out with my friends. I like to go fishing, believe it or not. I've been interested in that the last couple of months. I like watching hockey, I'm a big Bruins fan - I went to a few games.
EAGLE: What got you interested in fishing?
THOMAS: I don't know. One day I was like 'you know what dad? I need to go fishing.' and he was like 'what are you talking about?' I think the last week, I've been fishing three times. Last night, I was out with my friends, we went to the Hot Dog Ranch, and one of my friends asked what to do next, and my other friend said that they're broke, so the other said 'lets' just go fishing, you don't need any money.' So we went up to Fish Pond with some bread, and went fishing.
EAGLE: Have you developed a favorite fishing spot yet?
THOMAS: No. We went over to Gill on the way back from Western Mass. Last weekend, then we went to Chester Lake, then to Fish Pond last night.
EAGLE: When it comes to technology, is there a favorite social media platform that you have?
THOMAS: I'm a big fan of Snapchat, but I think getting a message across for something, or I want people to know something, Facebook.
EAGLE: Do you remember when you signed up for Facebook?
THOMAS: I believe I signed up for Facebook the fall of my eighth grade year, maybe the beginning of my ninth-grade year, because my mom said I didn't need one when I was in elementary school. And you know what? She was right, I didn't need one. But the only reason I signed upf rot hem is because of sports, because we communicate through a Facebook group chat. I only really use it to put up photos from prom, or that stuff, or that I made All-Berkshire team for track. That's it.
EAGLE: On your phone, what's one app you couldn't live without?
THOMAS: Probably Snapchat. I always Snapchat. I don't really text that much, I Snapchat most of the time.
EAGLE: On that note, too, picture messaging has become a big thing, but do you talk on the phone a lot with your friends?
THOMAS: Actually, since school has been out this past week, I've been calling people instead of texting them. I don't know why. It's bee a recent change over. Maybe it's because I don't see them and want to hear their voice. I know it's only been four days, but I've been 'hey, what are you doing?' or calling my parents. I've been leaning toward phone calls recently instead of texting.
EAGLE: Any big plans for the summer? Anything you are trying to do?
THOMAS: Nope. I'm working two jobs this summer. Hanging out with my parents before I leave, and my dog and my friends, and just having some fun.
EAGLE: Where do you work?
THOMAS: I work at Waubeeka Golf Links and I work at the Clark on the Constellation catering team.
EAGLE: Finally, I have to ask you the same thing I ask everybody; It's after a big meet or a big game and you get put in charge of deciding where everyone is going out to eat, where do you decide to go?
THOMAS: In North Adams, I'd go to the Hot Dog Ranch. That's the one place I would go.
EAGLE: To follow up on that; what's the go-to order from the Hot Dog Ranch?
THOMAS: I like wings, but I get them double-dipped, so they dip them in the sauce and then fry them again, so it's not as runny and not as spicy.
This interview was conducted, edited and condensed by Geoff Smith.
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