April Thomas Blazes Her Own Trail
“I love the fact that, being a female, I can open the door for younger female coaches, so that they have the confidence that, ‘I can do this thing well,’” ~ April Thomas
Would you believe that the event April Thomas is most synonymous with now is the one that gave her the most pause when she took her current position at Mississippi State?
Would you believe that the architect of #JavU threw everything but the javelin – and the kitchen sink – during her accomplished career as a collegiate athlete at Tennessee?
Would you believe that the same coach who gave a riveting lecture at the 2018 USTFCCCA Convention entitled “The Foundations of Javelin Throwing” knew very little about the event as a first-year coach back in 2008?
“It was a wake-up call,” Thomas said. “I had to humble myself and become a student of all of the throwing events. Javelin was definitely my weakest event. Between going to clinics, shadowing other coaches and collecting bits of information here and there, I could start to put the pieces together and formulate my own approach on it.”
Needless to say, Thomas has come a long way.
Thomas coached her first javelin thrower to the final site of the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in 2013 (Piotr Antosik). That was the first time the Bulldogs had a finalist in the event since 1923 (Yeah. It had been a while).
Curtis Thompson became the first javelin thrower from Mississippi State to score at NCAAs in program history two years later and from that moment on, it was off to the races.
Since 2015, Thomas’ results have been jaw-dropping.
The Bulldogs have won three of the past four NCAA titles (Thompson in 2016, Anderson Peters in 2018 and 2019), scored multiple athletes in each of the past three years, including eight top-5 finishes and – Oh, yeah. How could we forget? – were the first team since Oregon in 1964 to sweep the top-3 spots on the podium this past June in Austin, Texas.
“I definitely say that will hold a special place in my heart, not only because it hadn’t happened in a while,” Thomas said of Peters, Thompson and Tyriq Horford going 1-2-3 at Mike A. Myers Stadium. “More so that the training that they put in all year finally came together at the perfect place at the perfect time.”
A few days after NCAAs, Thomas made even more history: She became the first woman to be named the Men’s Outdoor Assistant Coach of the Year in the South Region. Thomas joined Rosalind Joseph (Great Lakes, 2018), Shelia Burrell (Mid-Atlantic, 2009), Deshaya Williams (Northeast, 2017), Megan Johnson (Northeast, 2013-15), Annette Acuff (Northeast, 2012) and Michelle Eisenreich (Northeast, 2009) as women to earn outdoor regional honors coaching men at the NCAA DI level.
The significance of her accomplishments are not lost on Thomas.
“I love the fact that, being a female, I can open the door for younger female coaches, so that they have the confidence that, ‘I can do this thing well,’” Thomas said. “Even in the throws, I think I paved the way for younger coaches to come up and find their niche, even if they don’t have experience in one area, like I did.”
Thomas’ impact has reverberated with her athletes, too.
“She makes it so much easier for us an athlete,” Thompson said. “As an athlete, we do our own research, but it’s easy to have her as our main source of information. Plus, as a coach, she makes sure all we focus on when it comes to competition is competing. That’s the most important part.”