Emily Thomas enjoys life on the run.
The 22-year-old Camas High School and Gonzaga University graduate is just hitting her stride. Next, she’s off to Regis University, in Denver, to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy.
“It’s just one more year after my master’s,” she said. “Might as well go for it all and become a doctor by the time I’m 25. Then I can really start my life.”
Thomas said this with a chuckle. She knows the next three years of graduate studies are going to be challenging, but she sees it as just another finish line to cross.
“I didn’t lead the normal college lifestyle. I chose two things, running and school, and I don’t regret it for a second,” Thomas said. “I’m just programmed that way. My parents are big on having to work for everything you have. When you’re juggling school and athletics, you don’t have time for anything else. If you set your goals, and they are important enough to you, you can get what you want.”
Thomas turned into a successful distance runner for Gonzaga, but it wasn’t by design. She ran cross country in high school to train for basketball and softball. Just as she started to discover her potential as a runner, Thomas broke a bone in her foot during the last few weeks of her senior season and was unable to compete at the state meet.
“Having an injury makes you want it so much more,” she said. “I wouldn’t be the athlete I am today without going through those injuries.”
It would take Thomas two more years to harness that potential.
“My coach calls me a running baby. I’m still a high schooler in terms of experience,” she said. “I had never ran in a track meet my whole life before this. My first race was as a sophomore in college, while most people start out in middle school or elementary school.
“I really enjoyed track,” Thomas added. “I’m kind of a rhythmic runner, and I like to hit my spots. You just get in the zone.”
Thomas thanked her college coaches, Pat Tyson and Patty Ley, for giving her the tools and the confidence.
“It was a great one-two punch having both of them,” she said.
In 2012, Thomas became the first Gonzaga Bulldog to compete in the NCAA West Preliminary Championships, in Austin, Texas. She took 24th place in the 10,000-meter run with a time of 35 minutes, 55.98 seconds.
Thomas and former Camas teammate Kayla Blackford competed in that race together. Blackford runs for Weber State.
“That was a really great experience for both of us,” Thomas said. “It kind of validated the hard work we both put into running.”
Thomas returned to the NCAA Prelims on May 23 for another go around in the 10,000. She notched 19th place in 36:01.23, but fell just five places shy of qualifying for the National Championships.
“I raced just about as well as I could have,” Thomas said. “The goal was to make it to nationals. I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t make it, but I gave everything I had in that last race.”
Thomas never regrets an inning of softball at Camas High School. She also loved playing basketball for the Papermakers.
“I just really love to compete,” she said. “I wouldn’t call myself a runner, but an athlete who chose running. It’s so incredible and so pure.”
Thomas loves running on the trails in Camas.
“It brings me right back,” she said. “I have a lot of good memories in Camas.”
Thomas plans to enter a few races this summer to help pay for grad school. As far as running a marathon one day, she said “never say never.”