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UK runner Thomson might have opening he needs to win NCAA title

Kentucky’s Jacob Thomson (No. 763 at left) is among the favorites entering Wednesday’s 10,000-meter finals at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Kentucky’s Jacob Thomson (No. 763 at left) is among the favorites entering Wednesday’s 10,000-meter finals at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. AP

Jacob Thomson has done a lot of winning since transferring to the University of Kentucky from North Carolina State in 2015.

In his almost two years here, the junior distance runner from Louisville Holy Cross has collected four Southeastern Conference medals — two golds, a silver and a bronze. The two golds came at the 2016 SEC Outdoor Championships when Thomson won the 10,000- and 5,000-meter races.

This season, Thomson’s highlights include winning the 5,000 at the historic Penn Relays, becoming the second athlete in UK history to run sub-29 minutes in the 10,000, placing third in the 10,000 at the SEC Outdoor Championships and earning a spot on the All-SEC Second Team.

thomson
Jacob Thomson won Male Athlete of the Year at the annual CATSPY Awards held in April. Thomson will look to add an NCAA championship to his list of accomplishments on Wednesday night. Mark Mahan

“Winning makes the sport a lot more fun, it’s a lot more enjoyable when you win races,” Thomson said. “That definitely makes you excited, gives you a little extra spark in your step.”

That spark is evident this week as Thomson attempts to fill one of the few remaining blanks on his collegiate running résumé.

Thomson will try to win his first national title when the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships get underway Wednesday night at Eugene, Ore. Start time for the 10,000 meters is 10:08 p.m.

Thomson qualified for the 10K finals on May 26 when he placed fourth at the NCAA East Preliminary Championships in Lexington.

Last season, Thomson placed sixth in the NCAA 10K finals in Oregon, good enough to earn First Team All-America honors.

Thomson had a chance to win last year’s race as part of a six-man lead pack with one lap to go but faded in the final stretch while Oregon’s Edward Cheserek kicked to a national championship.

4.16The number of seconds Thomson was away from first-place finisher Edward Cheserek last year

Thomson sees an opportunity this week as Cheserek, who has won 17 NCAA titles, suffered a minor back injury and scratched from the championships. Cheserek’s absence makes Thomson the top returning runner.

“With him (Cheserek) out of the field, there’s really probably eight or 10 guys who all expect to go in there and compete for a national championship, and I see myself as one of those guys,” Thomson said.

Despite Cheserek’s absence, the 10K field is loaded with many of the NCAA’s top runners.

Tulsa’s Marc Scott, Alabama’s Alfred Chelanga and Butler’s Erik Peterson are all expected to compete with Thomson for the title, but Thomson’s preparations have gone well.

“Workouts, everything has been going great the last couple of weeks so I’m really excited heading in,” Thomson said.

That (winning) definitely makes you excited, gives you a little extra spark in your step.

Jacob Thomson

If Thomson finds himself in contention late in the race like he did last year, he will be ready for any challenges that come up.

“When it comes to the bell lap, you’ve just got to take the gloves off and fight and the best man comes out on top,” Thomson said. “Last year, I think there were six of us who took the bell together, and it came down to a really tough finish, and I don’t expect this year to be any different.”

Chris Leach: 859-231-1326, @chrisleach250

Wednesday

NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships

What: Men’s 10,000-meter finals including UK’s Jacob Thomson

When: 10:08 p.m. EDT

Where: Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Broadcast info: ESPNU and WatchESPN.com

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