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AlumNews: Talon Articles

Cross country coach trains for Olympics

Wednesday, October 24, 2007  
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By Stefanie Trent

Oklahoma Christian University recently hired two new coaches to head its cross country program after 38 years under the direction of Randy Heath. Mark Thompson joined Oklahoma Christian’s athletic staff last spring as an assistant coach under new head coach Wayne Strohman.

One of Oklahoma’s most successful runners, Thompson graduated from Edmond Memorial High School, where he ran to six state championships in track and three state championships in cross country.

“His first race was in junior high and he won,” Thompson’s mother Kathy said. “Then the high school coach took notice and recruited him. He blew everyone away.”

After high school, Thompson attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. While there, he ran as a member of two national championship teams, one in each sport. Despite the team’s success, Thompson did not accomplish everything he wanted to at Arkansas.

“I had really high hopes and did not achieve like I thought I would due to some injury problems,” Thompson said.

Even as he helps coach Oklahoma Christian’s cross country teams, Thompson continues to work toward higher goals as a runner.

He still runs competitively and hopes to make the Olympic trials in July. Then, he plans to run in Europe for a few weeks to compete and try to improve his times.

“In June, at North American Milers Series, I ran a 3:43.63 in the 1500 meters,” Thompson said. “I am shooting for 3:43.00 for trials. I feel pretty confident that I can make trials and possibly the Olympics.”

Thompson placed second with his effort in the North American Milers Series and was only one second off the Olympic trials “B” standard of 3:43.0. He has also finished high in the Arkansas Invitational, the Tulsa 15K run and the Dallas White Rock Half Marathon in 2006.

Before becoming an assistant coach for Oklahoma Christian’s track and cross country teams, Thompson already served as a physics instructor for the university.

After earning a Bachelor of Science in Physics and a Master of Arts in Physics from Arkansas, Thompson taught physics at Fayetteville High School for three years before joining Oklahoma Christian’s faculty.

Thompson returned to Edmond and became better acquainted with his future wife Darci. They were married in August of 2006 after dating for two years.

“We had a bunch of mutual friends and had met several times through college, but we never dated until 2004, “Thompson said.

Darci serves as Director of Admissions for Oklahoma Christian. She graduated from Oklahoma Christian and has worked in the admissions office for several years as a recruiter and now as the director.

He wants to begin his doctorate in the fall of 2008 at the University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University while continuing to teach.

“I have delayed getting my doctorate because of competitive running and I cannot do both effectively,” Thompson said.

Since he teaches classes in the morning and trains with the cross country teams in the afternoon, Thompson said he still feels like a college student sometimes.

“I am having a great time doing it and training with a team again,” Thompson said. “In a way, I am still in college. I go to class every day and practice every day.”

Thompson said he is very excited about helping out with the cross country team this year. He and Strohman feel they have a strong team and hope to make a run at nationals.

The Eagles and Lady Eagles have two meets remaining before the NAIA National Championships. Their next race will be Oct. 13 in Winifield, Kan.

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