As the only returning cross country runner competing for ACU, Gabby Thompson is headed into new territory, the captain of the team.
She has finished at the top of the women’s team for ACU in the first three meets: Texas Tech Invitational, Ken Garland Invitational at the University of North Texas, and the Cowboy Jamboree at Oklahoma State, and was subsequently voted captain of the women’s cross country team, after four of the women’s top runners decided to redshirt for a chance to run ACU becomes eligible to advance to the postseason next year.
Even though this is Thompson’s first year as captain, she’s not afraid of the future, and grateful for the opportunity.
“I’m really blessed to be able to coach these young girls,” Thompson said. “They’re all new to college cross country, so I try to take care of them, not only in athletics, but in academics and making sure that the freshman get plugged in to a faith community here, especially a church. But really, they’re all doing an amazing job.”
Thompson said that the new distance coach, Jarvis Jelen, is really helping her get to a new level in her running.
“Coach Jelen has been giving us a lot more mileage than usual, especially more than what we had past years,” Thompson said. “It’s definitely helped us to prepare better for this year.”
Coach Jelen says that Thompson stuck out at the beginning of the year for the girls, and says that he’s pleased to see how well she’s taking the new training program.
“I’m still trying to develop the team, but it was nice to see her take it so well,” Jelen said. “We’ve been working together this fall, and from the summer when I got the job, and she’s been doing a great job.”
And it shows. In the past three meets, Thompson has not only been the top runner for the women, but has increased her times significantly from last year. She finished her 5k run at Oklahoma State in 29th place with a time of 19:56.1, which is a 52.9 seconds faster than last year. Thompson credits not only her coaches, but her fellow teammates as well.
“They’re always there for me,” Thompson says. “They push me to be the best leader I can be.”
The praise is not one-sided with the students. Ryan Cleary, one of the front-runners on the men’s team, says it’s clear that Thompson is ready for the responsibility.
“Gabby is a veteran student-athlete, and is very prepared to lead her team and step up for the girls,” Cleary said. “We’ve been through a lot of change here at ACU, and I can assure it has prepared her to take her racing to another level.”
Cleary also says her personality is a huge part to her success as a runner, and is a core reason why she’s a good leader.
“She is a very vocal person,” says Cleary. “It’s obvious her communication with the girls is right where it needs to be. She’s ready to lead this team.”
There are more than students who think that Thompson is ready for this role. Both coaches are proud of Thompson, and say that they’re ready for her to be a leader on this team.
Lance Bingham, head track and field coach, says that Thompson is exactly what you want to see as a coach.
“Gabby has really done a good job leading out with our team this year,” Bingham said. “She is training hard and is encouraging other runners to consistently train hard and keep focused.”
Although Bingham didn’t throw out any numbers, he said that Thompson is always ready to do the best job she can.
“I don’t like to make predictions,” Bingham said. “But one thing I look forward to from her is her absolute best – which is what all we truly desire to see as coaches.”
Thompson says that the main thing that she hopes to see happen this season is for the newcomers to become a group, and says that it is already feeling that way.
“It feels great to be with them, I feel like we’ve ran together forever,” Thompson said. “It feels like we’re family and that’s my favorite part about being a leader this year- seeing them grow in front of me.”
Coach Bingham says that ideology is the reason for their success.
“When you get a group of athletes that give their all, then the result tends to take care of itself.”