LEC cross country Coach of the Year award the latest in a long and successful career
Some people will remember 1981 as the year the New York Islanders won their second straight Stanley Cup, or when the Boston Celtics brought the NBA Championship title back to New England. For the Keene State College community, however, 1981 will be remembered as the start of an era.
For the past 32 years, cross country and track and field coach, Peter Thomas, has developed a program that demonstrates excellence and consistency. Through hard work and dedication, Thomas has produced 48 cross country All-Americans and 14 straight Little East Conference titles.
This season, however, Thomas gained extra recognition as he was named the LEC Coach of the Year for both the men and women’s teams. This is his second title for the men, as Thomas previously won the honor in 2009, and his fourth for the women, which he won in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
While Thomas appreciates the award and recognizes its value, he does not like to focus on his own acknowledgments. “It’s a great accomplishment by the kids,” Thomas said. “The awards are meaningful in that it’s more that the team did a really good job collectively. That’s important, the kids did what they were supposed to do.”
While Thomas focuses on his runners more than himself, it is difficult to let his talent and success go unnoticed.
KSC Director of Athletics, John Ratliff said that having a coach like Thomas at the college is extremely valuable not only for the current team, but for the future of the cross country program as well. “I think there’s a saying, ‘success breeds success,’ and I think his overall success is what continues theirs,” Ratliff said of KSC’s runners. “Kids and students want to come to a program that’s successful. The coach of the year award is recognition of that.”
Fresh off her own LEC runner of the year award, KSC sophomore Samantha Goldsmith knows just how important it is to have a successful and dedicated coach.
“Coaches are what holds the team together. Pete really knows what he’s doing when it comes to training us, but he’s also the kind of person that brings us together as a team and teaches us to work together and push each other,” Goldsmith said.
Goldsmith added that the team’s success comes from Thomas’s knowledge of the sport and his attention to detail. She said that he cares greatly about each individual athlete, which creates a cohesive unit come race day. However, the students do not just step out on the course and run fast. There are countless hours that add up to weeks, months, and years of training that lead up to these moments.
“Sometimes we have to do workouts really early in the morning before classes. Even in cross country, there are times when we have to be here at 6:30 in the morning. But he would drive up and he would be there for us,” Goldsmith said.
Not all coaches dedicate themselves like Thomas, who you can find with his team at just about any time of day, any time of the school year.
“Pete is the only coach that really has to coach year-round because he has cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. His dedication level is probably more than any other coach because of going year round, but I think that’s why he’s so successful,” Ratliff said.
When you combine a coach like Thomas, a determined group of runners and a supportive community, it seems the group is destined for success. While Thomas has already produced a lengthier resume at KSC, do not expect him to be going anywhere anytime soon.
“Coaching for me—and I imagine for the other coaches—is our drug, our rush. It’s so exciting when days go well and people run well, or swim well, or shoot a basket well. Seeing kids walk off the track smiling, happy. Those moments are so special, it’s why I coach,” Thomas said.
Diana Pimer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org