By Carmen Matos
Charlotte, N.C. - Senior Keara Thomas is headed to Iowa for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship Finals. When the Massachusetts native came to Charlotte she had two goals in mind, to simply do the best she could and have no regrets. The goals she set four years ago are what have gotten her Atlantic 10 Championship titles, a school record at Charlotte, and a trip to Iowa to compete in the NCAA finals for the first time. But it wasn't always medals and titles for the distance runner.
Thomas joined the Niners in 2007 with one of the largest classes the program has seen. As a freshman she finished ninth in the 1,500-meters at the Atlantic 10 Championships but didn't meet the times she expected or planned.
"Freshman year I came with not-so-great times from high school," said Thomas. "I focused on the 1,500 and the 800 when I got here and I didn't run as fast as I wanted too, but it was a learning experience. Getting used to college racing was important because it was so much different from high school racing."
The distance runner continued to work hard and study the sport, and it paid off. Her sophomore year she won the Atlantic 10 title and qualified for NCAA Regionals in the 3000-meter steeplechase.
After her second year at Charlotte, Thomas came into her own as an athlete and an integral part of the 49ers track team. Last season, Thomas qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field East Preliminary Round and won the Atlantic 10 championship in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, earning career-best times in both the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 5,000-meters. During the indoor and cross country seasons that same year, she helped set a meet record in the Distance Medley Relay, ran in the 4x800-meter relay that set a school record and placed sixth in the mile run at the Indoor Atlantic-10 Championships along with a host of other accolades.
"Sophomore year I really wanted to pay attention to my race tactics rather than going in there as a naïve freshman," Thomas said. "I wanted to make sure I had some idea when I went into races on how it was going to play out and be confident in my position. After two years I got used to college running. I knew what to expect and I figured out a little bit more each year on how to race against our conference."
This season has marked yet another level for Thomas. She is one of three Niners to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship Finals in Iowa, captured another Atlantic-10 Championship title, won the conference 3,000-meter steeplechase, placed fourth in the 1,500-meter conference championship race and set a program record in the steeplechase among many of other victories and titles.
"Coming in, I thought this would be my last season and I wanted to have no regrets," Thomas said. "I just wanted to look back and say that I was happy with my college career. Now that I've made it this far I want to see how far I can get and continue to do my best."
Thomas is set to compete in her first ever NCAA finals along with Darius Law and Jake Deaton in Des Moines, Iowa June 8-11.