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Elizabethton's Thomas qualifies for junior nationals

Trey Williams • Jul 12, 2014 at 8:03 PM

Autumn Thomas is a fast learner.

The rising junior sprinter at Elizabethton began working with coach Ernest Hill this summer, which is also her first competing in AAU. And results are coming in quickly.

Thomas qualified for the AAU Junior Olympic Games – July 25-Aug. 2 in Des Moines, Iowa – last week in Murfreesboro when she recorded a personal best 100-meter run (13.02) at the Southeast Region 6 qualifier.

“It was really exciting, just because that was my first year competing in AAU and being able to make it to the Junior Olympics,” Thomas said. “It’s a great feeling working hard and it paying off.”

Thomas’ previous best was a 13.13. The 13.02 was run in a headwind.

She credits Hill with helping her shave time, particularly with more technically sound starts.

Hill, a coach at Science Hill, was recommended to her this spring.

“I started working with him at the beginning of June,” she said. “It’s been fun. I’m learning a whole bunch of new stuff. … We work on my drive phase, staying down. And as long as I stay down I can cut a certain amount of time off in the beginning.”

Thomas finished fifth in Murfreesboro. The winning time was 12.69.

She’d like to finish in the top eight and make the finals in Iowa.

“And I want to break 13 seconds,” she said.

Thomas, whose brother Ethan is the Cyclones’ star running back, began running in the sixth grade. She started long jumping late in the high school season this spring, and that too is growing by leaps and bounds with Hill, a reputable jumps coach.

She jumped in the conference, district and regionals for Elizabethton this past season, and set a personal record (14-7) in the AAU qualifier last week.

Also qualifying for the nationals was 6-year-old Aiyana Hill. She finished third in Murfreesboro in the 8-under long jump (7-9 ¼).

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