COLLEGE NOTES: Freshmen high jumpers Thomas, James set to square off in NCAAs
Now, freshmen Corey Thomas of Stonehill College and Whitman resident Noel James of American International College will square off with a national championship on the line.
Thomas is seeded No. 1 and James, a Whitman-Hanson Regional High graduate, is No. 2 in the high jump event at the NCAA Div. 2 Indoor Championships, which begins today in Albuquerque, N.M.
A Boston College High graduate, Thomas recorded the best high jump of the season nationally in Div. 2 by clearing a school-record 7-foot-2 1-4 inches at the New England Championships in Boston.
James had been first in the country prior to that meet with a school-record jump of 7-1 1-2 inches to beat Thomas at the Northeast-10 Conference Championships. That bettered Thomas’ jump of 7-1 at the Reebok Boston Collegiate Indoor Games in late January, and James was named the NE-10 freshman of the year.
“When you go to the nationals, everybody out there is good,’’ said Stonehill coach Karen Boen. “The irony is the second best jumper in the country is the kid (Thomas) went head-to-head with in high school and is now in our conference. What is the likelihood of that? You go all the way to New Mexico to compete against the same kid from our conference.’’
Thomas and James will compete in the high jump with 10 others today at 4:55 p.m. The entire meet will be streamed live at www.ncaa.com.
It has been a debut season to remember for Thomas, who has been named the East Region Indoor male field athlete of the year and the NE-10 male athlete of the year.
Thomas won the high jump at the New England Championships along with the Reebok event and meets hosted by Wheaton College and Tufts University. He was picked as the most valuable athlete at the NE-10 Championships.
“He basically has hit a personal best every time he’s been challenged to do so,’’ said Boen. “It’s unusual (for a freshman). The U.S. Junior Nationals have already contacted me about him. He’s had one of the best five jumps in this country for an 18-year-old.
“We knew he was the real deal. He visited the school when he was a sophomore at BC High School. They came down on a class trip and he just fell in love with the school and said, ‘That’s where I want to go.’”
James, who was third in the triple jump at the NE-10 Championships, began his AIC career by placing first in the high jump at the Jay Carisella Invitational, hosted by Northeastern University, with Thomas taking second. James set a school record to win the event at the Harvard Invitational.
He then tied that mark while winning the high jump at the University of Rhode Island meet and was first at the Boston University Terrier Invitational. James took second at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York
In addition to the high jump, Thomas will be representing Stonehill in the 60-meter hurdles with the preliminary race at 8:55 tonight and the final on 7:05 p.m. on Saturday. He is seeded third in a field of 12 with a time of 7.98 seconds.