Gabrielle Thomas ’15 has quickly made a name for herself in the collegiate world of track and field. She has already set Harvard and Ivy League records in the 200m and has recorded the fastest 200m time in the country for a freshman.
The foundation for much of her success this season came from her natural talent, her close relationship with her mom, and her experience at the Williston Northampton School. Despite her busy schedule, Gabby was able to take time to answer important questions about her life on and off of the track.
When did you realize that you had talent for running?
I played soccer since I was about 5 or 6, so I discovered my talent for running on the soccer field. I was always the fastest when it came to sprinting down the field, so when my mom made me try out for the track team in 7th grade, I really enjoyed it. I’ve been “the fast girl” since as long as I can remember, but in 7th grade I discovered my talent for track and field. Then, in 10th grade, I decided to devote myself to track when I realized that I could go places with it.
What have been your keys for success over the past few years, both at Williston and at Harvard?
At Williston, I always had a goal that I was working for, so I would’ve considered that the most important key to success. Whether it was academic or athletic, I was always setting a goal for myself to achieve, and when I got it, I would set an even higher goal, so that has always been a really important factor in succeeding. At Harvard, that’s still true, however I’ve learned that the biggest key to success is maintaining a growth mindset. That’s something that I’m still working on. That means understanding that there is a lot of room for improvement, on and off the track. That’s what has allowed me to get through all of the training and to continue improving.
What are your goals for track?
I’m trying to learn as much as I can and improve as much as I can. When I go out and compete, I focus on executing my race, and the rest follows. Hopefully, however, this season my 200m sprint will qualify for Olympic trials. Qualifying time is a 23.20, and I ran a 23.37 my last meet at BU. Also, our 4×4 team is trying to go nationals this season. As for long term goals, I have no idea at the moment! I just want to focus on getting better and being the best athlete that I can be. We’ll see where that gets me.
How do you deal with success and setbacks on the track?
There are definitely a lot of setbacks on the track, but having a growth mindset, like I mentioned earlier, is what gets me through them. My coach has really forced that idea into my head. There are going to be a lot of times when I can’t get something right in my jumping form, or when I run a bad race, but it’s important to remember that it is all a part of a process. The road to success isn’t smooth and easy, it’s crazy and comes with a lot of failure. Reminding myself of the feeling that comes with success gets me through. When I get a PR (personal record) in any of my events, it is the most rewarding feeling. I also have an amazing support system behind me that helps me deal with any setbacks. My mom, teammates, friends, my current and old coach, are all really great.
Is there a particular moment at Williston that you will always remember (either athletic or academic)?
This sounds cliche, but I will always remember New Englands my sophomore year. That was the first time I had really set a goal for myself and got it. At the time, it was to set the school record in the 100m dash. I remember looking over at my time and running over to my mom, who was really excited for me. In that moment I knew I wanted to run track. Since then, I’ve had the confidence to feel like I could do anything that I set my mind to do.
Was there someone at Williston who inspired you to be at your best on the track and/or in the classroom?
There are a number of people who motivated me in different ways at Williston. There are so many members of the community who care and want you to do well, so that’s definitely a big part of any of my successes. The person who has always inspired me the most is my mom. She’s the hardest working person that I know and has had the biggest influence on me. She’s always been incredibly supportive of me, but always pushes me the most.
How has Williston helped you prepare for Harvard?
One thing that I learned from Williston that has really saved my life at Harvard is time management skills. Williston always forced me to learn to manage my time well with classes and sports, and that’s key in college, especially for an athlete. Williston has also taught me that it’s good to challenge myself, so I feel good about taking classes that interest me but seem really scary at first.
What could current Williston students learn from your experience at our school?
I’d say that current students should definitely use Williston’s supportive community to push yourself and take risks. The odds of anybody finding a place like Williston after high school are slim–it’s full of people who are dedicated to helping you succeed. If I never took risks, I never would’ve found out that I liked track or taken challenging classes that helped me get into my dream school.