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Gay athlete leads Colorado to best Pac-12 finish

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College Sports Roundup: LGBT athletes compete for conference titles.

Jaron Thomas took two top-four finished for Colorado at the Pac-12 Championships.
Gary Breedlove

EUGENE, Oregon — Jaron Thomas had seen all his track and field heroes compete at Hayward Field, the 98-year-old University of Oregon stadium that hosted the last three U.S. Olympic Trials in track and field.

For the first time, Thomas walked into the stadium to compete himself at this year’s Pac-12 Conference Championships on May 13-14.

“It was kind of cool seeing what has been televised all these years of watching track and growing up in a track family,” said Thomas, a Colorado senior. “Hayward was awesome, but a track is a track. It’s 400 meters, and you still have to run around it.”

Thomas had no problem running the Hayward track. He scored the most points of anyone on Colorado’s men’s team, leading the Buffaloes to fourth place in the meet. It was Colorado’s best finish since joining to the Pac-12 Conference in 2011-12.

He took third in the 400-meter hurdles (51.62 seconds), finished fourth in the 110-meter hurdles (14.07 seconds), and helped the 1,600-meter relay take seventh.

“I’m glad that I finished as well as I did, but I’m not satisfied with it,” said Thomas, who initially talked publicly about being gay in 2016. “It’s the most points I ever scored in the Pac-12, but it was obviously not satisfying. We don’t ever get on the line and want third, fourth, and seventh place. We run because we want to win.”

His third place in the 400 hurdles matched his best Pac-12 finish in the event, equaling the third place he got as a freshman in 2014. In the 400 hurdles, he was in fifth after prelims, so he was more satisfied with that race.

In the 110 hurdles, Thomas was third after prelims and ran a faster time, going 13.84 seconds.

“As I got further in the race, I kind of got tangled up with some hurdles, and it slowed me down a little bit,” Thomas said of his 110 race. “When I crossed the finish line in that race, I was very disappointed when I saw my time, because I knew that I could have run faster.”

The most gratifying race for Thomas was the relay, the final event of the Pac-12 Championships. Colorado entered the 4x400 relay tied with California for fifth in the team standings, and Thomas’ relay ran 3 minutes, 11.13 seconds to beat the Bears by 0.12 seconds.

“It was my last event at Pac-12s,” said Thomas, who ran the relay’s first leg. “Whenever I handed off, I left the Colorado track and field Pac-12 competition. I handed it off and left it in the hopes of my teammates.

“It was a very sentimental race for me. It was not very long after the 400 hurdles. I was tired and exhausted and just had to muster up some strength from nowhere to run another 400. … And those last points really mattered for the men to get that fourth-place finish.”

This is Thomas’ final outdoor track and field season. He has a season remaining of indoor eligibility, which he plans to use next year at North Texas while beginning a doctorate in audiology.

Thomas has at least one more meet in his Colorado career. He is seeded 12th in the 110 hurdles and 19th in the 400 hurdles at the NCAA West Prelims, which are scheduled for May 25-27 in Austin, Texas.

He needs a top-12 finish in Austin to advance to the NCAA Championships, which are back at Hayward.

“It was a good conference meet,” Thomas said. “It was a good experience and awesome to run at Hayward but definitely left me very motivated for this next round coming up in Austin.”

Names in bold are people that have announced publicly they identify as LGBT.

Division I

Chase Boyle (senior, Mount St. Mary’s men’s track & field) took eighth in the hammer (176 feet, 6 inches) at the IC4A meet May 13 at Princeton, and on May 12 at the IC4A meet, Cavender Salvadori (redshirt junior, William & Mary men’s track & field) finished 19th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (9:31.91).

Konrad Eiring (sophomore, Illinois men’s track & field) helped the Illini get sixth at the Big Ten Championships on May 12-14. His 4x400 relay took eighth, and he got 14th in the 800 meters (1 minute, 49.86 seconds) with a personal-record time. “That was a gutsy performance from Konrad,” Illinois head coach Mike Turk said in a press release of Eiring’s 800. “He went out with the lead and did what he had to do. He was definitely an underdog in that race, and he gave it a heck of a run to set a new personal record.” Eiring’s time at the Big Ten meet earned him a spot in the NCAA West Prelims, where he is seeded 40th in a field of 48 and is scheduled to run May 25.

Jennifer Emery (senior, IUPUI women’s track & field), Alexis Lewandowski (sophomore, IUPUI women’s track & field), and Kelsey Tyler (junior, IUPUI women’s track & field) helped the Jaguars take seventh at the Summit League meet May 11-13 in Fargo, North Dakota. Emery finished seventh in the 10,000 meters (37:58.14), which was a 17-second personal record and her best career finish at the conference meet. “I don't think things could have played out any better,” Emery said in a press release. “It was my last 10K, and I not only finished with a PR but also with my first-ever time placing. My only goal going into the race was to leave it all on the track, and I can confidently say I achieved all my goals.” Tyler finished 14th in the 5,000 meters (18:50.63). Lewandowski came in eighth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (11:39.28) and captured 17th in the 5,000 meters (19:08.92). “I took a pretty hard fall over the first water barrier, which took a toll on my confidence, but I kept fighting to place for the team,” Lewandowski said of her steeplechase race in a press release. “Having my teammates spread out around the track cheering me on despite my fall was really encouraging and helped keep me in it.”

Chandler Frumin (junior, Tennessee women’s rowing) was named to the Big 12 All-Conference rowing team May 14. In her final college race, she helped the Volunteers’ No. 1 Varsity Eight boat take third (6:31.990) in the Grand Final at the Big 12 Conference Championships on May 14. Tennessee was third overall in the team competition with Texas winning and claiming the automatic NCAA berth.

Emmonnie Henderson (senior, Louisville women’s track & field) won the shot put title (57-7 1/2), took fourth in discus (173-2 1/4), and finished 12th in hammer (166-5) at the ACC Championships on May 12-14 in Atlanta. Her discus throw was her best this season. The shot put title is her third consecutive ACC outdoor crown in the event. “I'm grateful to have been afforded the ability and resources to experience the ACC Championships for three years, bringing home the gold each time in the shot put,” Henderson said in a press release. Louisville’s women’s team came in sixth in the 15-team meet. Henderson’s season continues in shot put and discus at the NCAA East Prelims on May 25-27.

Colin Christiansen (assistant coach, Maryland-Baltimore County softball) saw the Retrievers (22-30 overall) lose twice May 10 in the America East Tournament to end the season.

Nich Lee Parker (head coach, Columbia men’s lightweight rowing) guided his three boats to qualify for grand finals May 14 at the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges sprints. The best finish came from the varsity eight taking fourth. “Our team showed full belief in each other and our approach,” Parker said in a press release. “We continue to trend in a positive direction.” Columbia’s performance qualified it for the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships, which the Lions won last season.

Simon Thibodeau (head coach, UC Santa Barbara women’s tennis) saw the Gauchos (17-10-1 overall) end the season May 12 with a 4-0 loss to No. 23-ranked UCLA in the first round of the NCAA tournament

Kirk Walker (assistant coach, UCLA softball) watched the No. 5-ranked Bruins win the Los Angeles Regional on Sunday with a 9-1 win against Cal State Fullerton. UCLA (45-13 overall) went 3-0 in the regional. UCLA hosts Mississippi in the best-of-three super regional on May 25-27.

Division II

Kylon Drones (junior, West Texas A&M men’s track & field) took second in the 110-meter hurdles (14.39 seconds) and helped the 1,600-meter relay finish second at the West Texas A&M Last Chance meet May 14. He learned May 16 that he qualified in the 110-meter hurdles for the NCAA Division II National Championships on May 25-27

Carly Muscaro (senior, Merrimack women’s track & field) won the 400 meters (52.57 seconds), helped the 400-meter relay win (47.33 seconds), and contributed to the 1,600-meter relay finishing second at the NEICAAA Championships on May 12-13 at Williams College. Her 400 win earned an automatic berth to the NCAA Division II National Championships on May 25-27, and she also qualified to compete there in the 200 meters.

Austin Shupp (redshirt sophomore, Shippensburg men’s track & field) won the 400-meter hurdles (53.32 seconds) at Georgian Court University on May 12.

Lauren Lappin (assistant coach, Missouri-St. Louis softball) saw the Tritons (42-15 overall) end the season May 13 with a 7-5 loss to Wayne State in the championship of the Midwest Regional. No. 25-ranked UMSL, the No. 1 seed in the regional, led the championship game 4-1 before No. 4 seed Wayne State went in front with a six-run sixth inning. UMSL went 3-2 in the double-elimination regional with both losses to Wayne State.

Division III

Paul Messana (senior, Pomona-Pitzer men’s track & field) earned a spot in the 800 meters at the NCAA Division III National Championships, which are May 25-27.

Chance Wheeler (freshman, men’s volleyball) said on Twitter that he has left the Wilson College men’s volleyball team.

NAIA

Jack Strickland (senior, Friends men’s track & field) won the 110-meter hurdles (15.08 seconds) and took fourth in the 400-meter hurdles (56.57 seconds) at the MSSU Last Chance Meet on May 12. He took second in the 110 hurdles (15.26 seconds) at the Nebraska-Kearney Last Chance Meet on May 14.

Erik Hall can be reached via email at hallerik7@gmail.com or on Twitter @HallErik or on Facebook. If you are an out LGBT athlete or coach and want your accomplishments recognized, please email Erik.