BY Marvin Pave
Globe Correspondent / March 17, 2011
A third-place finish in the high jump, along with a failure to qualify for the championship heat in the 60-meter hurdles at last winter's NCAA Division 2 Indoor Track & Field Championships, did not sit well with Brookline's Corey Thomas.
When the Stonehill College sophomore made his return to Albuquerque last weekend for this season's national competition, he did so with a renewed purpose and determination. The result was a landmark victory for the former Boston College High football and track standout.
Thomas soared to the Division 2 title in the high jump with his leap of 7 feet 1/2 inch, becoming the Easton college's first national champion in an individual event.
On Sunday, Thomas registered his second All-America performance at the meet with his fifth-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles, setting a school record with his time of 8.08 seconds.
Thomas said he was reminded by high jump coach Jen Harlow to not pay attention to the other jumpers or their rankings and "just focus on my warm-ups and my goal."
"I came into the event in the right mind-set, got it going and had a good day,'' said Thomas, whose personal best in the high jump is 7 feet 2 inches, set at last year's New England indoor championships.
"Now it just feels awesome to be the first male athlete at Stonehill to be a national champ. It's hard to find the words to explain the feeling. I had a couple of hours to get ready for the time trials in the hurdles after winning the high jump, and then in the finals I fought my way through and caught two other runners at the end for fifth. I felt proud of that, too.''
For the second straight year, Thomas was honored as the Division 2 East Region Field Athlete of the Year by the US Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association.
"Corey went to indoor nationals as a freshman a little in awe of the other competitors, but he learned from that experience,'' said Karen Boen. head coach of both the men's and women's track & field squads at Stonehill.
"This year he was more relaxed and he came in on a mission. Not everyone is so good at two events at this level and Corey is one of them. A year ago he was disappointed at his finish in the high jump,'' she said, when he couldn't get above 6 feet 11 inches, "and he had a hard time going into the hurdles. Last weekend, he settled himself down and did just fine.''
Thomas had posted the second-best high jump in the country this season among all NCAA divisions, and automatically qualified for the Division 2 championships when he cleared 7 feet 1 inch at the Harvard University Open.