Emerging Queensland talent Jude Thomas has run almost 20,000km in the last few years but his journey towards middle distance glory has only just begun.
With confidence brought on by being recently crowned the Australian Under 20 champion in the 1500m and 5000m events, the 19-year-old stepped up to the plate to compete at the Australian 3000m Championships at Box Hill overnight and proved himself a star on the rise.
Smashing his next career milestone out of the park, Thomas finished the race in a time of 7:52.11 to break a 12-year Under 20 record set by Australian middle distance stalwart Ryan Gregson by more than five seconds. While Thomas finished just behind the new titleholder Jack Bruce, the victory was a personal best by 8 seconds and cements Thomas as the current World Under 20 leader in the 3000m.
“Going into this season I had a few goals in mind. I wanted to get the World Under 20 qualifiers for the 3000m and 5000km, which I’ve now got, and I wanted to get Gregson’s record, which was the main record I wanted to achieve for the season,” Thomas said.
“To achieve that, it definitely means a lot. The record is one of my best achievements so far, and that’s because Ryan has mostly been pretty dominant for a long time now. It’s a benchmark of where someone so great was at my age, and for me to rival that is pretty special.”
Placing behind him with a time of 7:52.81 was his idol, Gregson.
“Ryan’s a great guy. I actually hadn’t spoken to him before, but it was pretty cool though when he came over after the race to congratulate me. I did a warm down with him and he said he was really proud of me. Let’s remember though, I wouldn’t have run 7:52 if it wasn’t such a great field,” Thomas said.
Determined to progress his ascent to the top of Australian middle distance running, Thomas credits his Covid experience for his fast track success.
“I definitely think the reason why I had such a great season this year and even this race, was that I used last year as an opportunity to train, and not worry about times,” he said.
“Last year I ran 7300km, which is about 20km a day. I built up a good aerobic base, which I plan to continue with another 7000m this year, but I didn’t focus on speed. My first track race towards the end of 2020, I did 3:53 in a 1500m and fell flat stick on the ground.
“I didn’t let that get to me but from there I was able to add on that track work and then everything started falling into place for me throughout the season. I have always been fascinated by lots of aerobic running. Prime examples of this are commonly seen in East African training groups, and they have dominated the sport for years, so we try and learn as much as we can from their style of training.”
While the season has now drawn to a close, Thomas said he’ll now turn his attention to his training routine but has his sights set on donning the green and gold not too far into the future.
“Now that the track season is over, I’m focussing on my training routine and the cross country season. I want to compete at Zatopek:10 where I’ll race the 1500m or 3000m, and then work towards the Australian Cross Country trials for Bathurst,” he said.
“It’s of course my goal to represent my country. There is a lot of great Aussie middle distance talent on the rise at the moment, so I know that it will be a tough job. Right now I’ll focus on continuing what I’m doing with my coach Peter Reeves and my running mates in the NANCI Running Crew in Ipswich and staying injury-free.”
In the women’s 3000m race last night Australian team captain Genevieve Gregson (Nic Bideau) claimed her second national title and a fifth national podium finish. Clocking 8:51.24, Gregson defeated 21-year-old Rose Davies (Scott Westcott) who beat her at Zatopek:10 and Victoria’s Melissa Duncan.