District finals runner-up set to join Boxers in Division III

by: GREG ARTMAN - Ben Thomas, who was the runner-up at the Northwest Oregon Conference district cross country finals as a senior, will continue his running career at Pacific University.When asked why he was drawn to running, Ben Thomas pauses briefly.

“I really don’t know,” he says. “It was something I tried, and I just got hooked. I started in sixth grade and haven’t stopped since.”

It’s apparent that the sport is still a strong passion for Thomas, a recent Wilsonville High School graduate. He will continue his athletic career at Pacific University in Forest Grove as a member of the cross country and track and field programs.

Thomas says he also considered Willamette University in Salem but received a better financial package from Pacific, which competes in Division III as a member of the Northwest Conference.

The Boxers are coached by Tim Boyce, whom Thomas calls “a really great guy.”

Thomas will join a Pacific cross country roster that features several area products, including Hillsboro-Century alumnus Devon Christian and Forest Grove graduate Tyler Shipley. The school’s track roster includes Wilsonville Class of 2010 alumnus Aaron Koford, a thrower, sprinter and decathlete.

The Boxers’ running season begins Aug. 31 with the Puget Sound Invitational at Fort Steilacoom Park in Tacoma, Wash. Other meets include the Adidas Cross Country Classic, which is slated for Oct. 12 in Portland, and the Lewis & Clark Invitational on Oct. 19 at McIver State Park in Estacada.

Thomas says it’ll be a challenge to balance athletics and academics at the collegiate level. He plans to study computer science.

Thomas has become a talented runner since joining the track team at Athey Creek Middle School.

He was a key member of the Wilsonville team that won a district title in cross country last season, receiving first-team all-league honors. He placed second behind teammate Ty James at the Northwest Oregon Conference championships, clocking a career-best 16 minutes 10.2 seconds.

That time put Thomas at No. 5 on the Wildcats’ all-time list for the 5,000-meter run, ranking behind only Akiharu Kitagawa (15:47), Nathan O’Brien (15:53), Kobi Daum (15:54) and James (15:56.6).

Thomas made three appearances at the OSAA state finals in cross country, improving from a 57th-place showing as a sophomore to an 18th-place effort as a senior.

Thomas, who says making the varsity roster as a sophomore was one of the most memorable accomplishments of his prep career, adds that running provided him with a strong social circle during his time with the Wildcats.

“Going into it in ninth grade, I didn’t really know anybody, and sports let me know people,” he says. “It started before school freshman year, so I got a friend base and it expanded from there.”

Thomas was also a four-year member of the Wilsonville boys track and field program, mostly as a distance runner.

He logged six top-five finishes in the 3,000-meter run this past season, winning the race at a league meet May 8. He placed fourth at the district championships with a 9:28.60.

Thomas graduated from the Wildcats system holding top-20 school marks in the 3,000 and 5,000 with times of 9:27.02 and 17:26.00, respectively.

Thomas credits Wilsonville coach David Barkley for helping him develop a positive approach to running. After all, Thomas says, the sport takes a certain mental fortitude.

“If you don’t have the mindset for it, if you can’t believe you can do it,” Thomas says, “you’re not gonna.”

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