Since graduating from St. Xavier in 2003, Bobby Curtis has been considered the gold standard of Kentucky high school distance running.
Ten years later, Jacob Thomson has made that discussion a two-man race.
Thomson, a senior at Holy Cross, will close his high school career Saturday during the Class A state track and field meet at the University of Louisville’s Cardinal Park. He has won nine state titles (seven track, two cross country) and is entered in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs Saturday.
“I’m looking forward to trying to put on a little show this weekend,” said Thomson, who stands 5 feet 10 and weighs 145 pounds.
Curtis finished his high school career with 14 state titles (11 track, three cross country) and posted several state-record times along the way. He went on to become an NCAA champion at Villanova, winning the 5,000 in 2008 before turning pro.
And though he has a long way to go to match Curtis’ post-high school accomplishments, Thomson has taken aim at some of Curtis’ records. At the Eastern Relays on April 27, he ran the fastest mile in Kentucky high school history with a time of 4 minutes, 6.98 seconds. That bettered Curtis’ record of 4:07.06.
Three weeks earlier at the Arcadia (Calif.) Invitational, Thomson finished fourth in the 3,200 in 8:48.73, just missing Curtis’ state record of 8:48.39. Curtis also holds the record in the 1,600 at 4:08.29, with Thomson’s best time a 4:08.71.
“They’re both extremely even,” said Bryan Lilly, Thomson’s personal trainer and a 1995 Holy Cross graduate. “When you compare their times, you’re talking about fractions of a second. Jacob is bound and determined to leave as the best. He wants every record to have his name.”
Thomson might not have enough competition to push him to record times Saturday, but he’ll have two opportunities in the coming weeks. He has set a goal to break the four-minute mark in the adidas Dream Mile in New York on May 25, and he’ll have a chance to set records in multiple events at the New Balance Nationals June 14-16 in Greensboro, N.C.
“I’d say right now (Curtis) and I are definitely 1-2,” Thomson said of the top distance runners in state high school history. “Hopefully, after the next few weeks it will be a little bit clearer.”
He began running competitively in the fourth grade but also was involved with several other sports, including baseball and basketball. His uncles, Chet and Travis White, both ran for Holy Cross, and his mother, Tammy, played volleyball there.
Thomson won a freshman race during a Foot Locker regional cross country event in 2009 but didn’t get serious about running until that spring.
“I was still playing baseball and I ran a 4:20 mile that spring,” he said. “I was good at baseball, but I realized I was a little better at track.”
Thomson won his first state title that spring, in the Class A 1,600. As a sophomore and a junior he pulled off “the triple,” winning the 800, 1,600 and 3,200. His 4:10.80 in the 1,600 last year was a State Meet record. On Saturday he plans to chase Curtis’ State Meet record of 9:12.19 in the 3,200.
Thomson also won Class A cross country crowns as a junior and a senior. Last fall he finished in 15:21.40, a State Meet record for the Paddock Course that has been used since 2009. He went on to finish fifth in the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships.
Tammy Thomson said her son’s success is a result of God-given talent and hard work. She said he also constantly studies the sport.
“If there’s one thing that will keep him up late at night, it’s that he’s on the Internet researching other runners,” she said.
Added Lad Dillard, the Holy Cross track and field coach: “If you got some kind of brain surgeon to measure what goes on in his head, they’d be amazed with what goes on in there. He just outworks everybody, on the track and at home.”
Thomson has signed with North Carolina State after also considering Colorado, Oregon, Florida State and Oklahoma. He hopes to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2016 and make a run for a spot on the Olympic team in 2020.
“Of the elite runners and Olympic hopefuls right now, when you look at what those people ran in high school, Jacob is better or equal to all of them,” Lilly said. “So, yeah, he certainly has the ability and work ethic to do it. … It’s simply a matter if he’ll continue to want to do that for the next eight years.”
STATE TRACK AND FIELD MEET
* When: Today-Saturday.
* Where: University of Louisville’s Cardinal Park.
* Tickets: $10 per session, three-session pass for $20; children 10 and under free.
* Class 2-A boys, 4 p.m. today: Paducah Tilghman is the defending champion but is ranked No. 6 in the state behind No. 1 Central, Lexington Catholic, Highlands, Rowan County and Mercer County. Central senior Jazz Hayes will compete in the 100, 200 and 400 meters.
* Class 2-A girls, 4 p.m. today: Western Hills is the defending champion after ending Highlands’ four-year run in 2012. Western Hills is ranked No. 2 in the state behind Central. Collins eighth-grader Gabriella Karas, winner of the 800 and 1,600 last year, will try to pull off the 1,600-3,200 double this year.
* Class A boys, 9 a.m. Saturday: St. Henry is the defending champion and is No. 2 in the state behind Fort Campbell. Holy Cross’ Jacob Thomson, winner of seven state titles in track and field, is gunning for state records in the 1,600 and 3,200.
* Class A girls, 9 a.m. Saturday: St. Henry is the defending champion and is No. 1 in the state. Bardstown senior Victoria Yocum could pull a triple in the 100, 200 and 400.
* Class 3-A boys, 4:30 p.m. Saturday: Bryan Station is the defending champion after ending Male’s five-year run in 2012. The Defenders are ranked No. 2 behind North Hardin. Look for Trinity’s James Quick and Ballard’s William Bush to battle for titles in the 100 and 200.
* Class 3-A girls, 4:30 p.m. Saturday: Assumption is the defending champion but is ranked No. 5 behind North Hardin, Manual, Male and Bryan Station. Sacred Heart’s Maggie Allen and Assumption’s Katherine Receveur headline the 1,600.