Injuries limit Tiger’s Thompson at state
You never know when the injury bug will hit; for the lucky ones, it seems they never deal with it; for others, it seems to pop up at the most inopportune times. That is precisely what happened to senior sprint queen RaeAnn Thompson on Wednesday at the NSAA State Track and Field Meet at Omaha Burke High School.
Everything looked up to par in the 100m dash prelims as Thompson, racing against a stacked Class B field, qualified for the finals with a 12.53. An hour later, Thompson came out of the blocks in the third heat of the 400m prelims and looked uncomfortable by turn two. By the time she reached the final straightaway, she was noticeably limping and reaching for what looked to be her left hamstring. After reaching the finish line, Thompson immediately went into the medical tent to be evaluated. To the surprise of many, she emerged with good news; she was cleared to run in the 200m dash just over an hour away.
No one could have blamed her if she chose not to run in the race, but the competitor in Thompson wasn’t going out that way in her final state meet. Thompson, the winner of the 200 in 2021 and the silver medalist last spring, mustered enough strength and determination to not only finish the race but to qualify for finals with a 25.90.
Maybe the gods of track and field were smiling down on Burke Stadium; perhaps the injury was enough to slow her down but not enough to stop her, or maybe sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it’s just too much to overcome.
On Thursday afternoon, the sky came tumbling down for the two-time defending Class B 100m state champion. Thompson came out of the blocks looking as good as ever, but by the 25m mark, she leaped in pain, grabbing her leg and falling to the track surface moments later as the other runners crossed the finish line. Unable to finish the race, Thompson had to be carted off the track as tears streamed down her cheeks.
What began as a chance to be immortalized as a three-time champion soon faded for Richardson County’s most decorated female athlete.
As the end of the meet drew near, Thompson limped to the starting blocks of the 200m dash. When the gun went off, she slowly made her way around the curve, hitting the straightaway to the applause of the thousands in attendance. As she crossed the finish line, the other seven competitors were waiting with their arms wide open, waiting to embrace Thompson. Her final school race ended with an eighth-place medal at 1:44.73.
Her time may have been the slowest she’s ever run, but it may have meant more to her than any race she ever finished. Champions aren’t always the ones who cross the finish line first; champions show grit and determination and that’s exactly what led Thompson to finish the last race of her decorated high school career, proving that she indeed is a champion.
When asked about her emotions entering her final race, Thompson said, “I just wish I could have actually run instead of having to walk. I’m just glad I got a medal for my senior year.”
Thompson wasn’t the only Tiger competing at Burke High School last week. On Wednesday afternoon, Junior Ashleigh Kirkendall hit the starting blocks for the 100m hurdles. Kirkendall ran a 16.00 at the district meet at Platteview High School to qualify for state. Running out of lane seven in the third heat, Kirkendall cleared the hurdles and crossed the finish line in 16.86, missing the qualifying time for finals by about one second.