Why Ipswich student is on Canberra scouting mission

Rising Ipswich cross country runner Jude Thomas is preparing for Australian selection trials in Canberra early next year.


BEING on school holidays allows runner of the future Jude Thomas extra time to clock up more kilometres than usual.

The St Edmund’s College student is building up to 120-130km a week having just completed year 11.

However, Thomas’ extra workload is for more than the enjoyment it provides.

He’s preparing for a shot at Australian team selection for next year’s world cross country championships in Europe.

Although not turning 17 until March, Thomas has so much natural ability that he’s going to run in the under-20 trial in Canberra in January.

“That’s my main focus.  That’s what I’m building up to,” Karalee-based Thomas said.

“I’m mixing a lot of the training up, training a lot harder and just a lot of running.

“It’s going to be a big opportunity for me if I’m able to make the team.”

The Ipswich and District Athletic Club member and NANCI (Naturally Athletic Nurtured Culturally in Ipswich) squad runner will check out the 6km course he’ll confront when he flies to Canberra this weekend with some mates.

“We’ll have a hit-out with them and see where I’m at,” Thomas said.

He qualified for the national trials being the fastest 16-year-old over 6km in Australia.

Jude won a silver medal at the Australian Cross Country championships at Maleny earlier in the year, representing his state and anchoring the Queensland team that won gold in the relay.

Rated by respected coach Peter Reeves as one of the most naturally gifted young athletes, Thomas is taking it all in his stride.

However, he appreciates the support of Reeves, who has a long association with highly regarded Australian coach Pat Clohessy.

“Just with training and just with choices I should be making towards my running and what’s important now and what’s important in the future,” Thomas said of how Reeves assists him.

Thomas teamed up with the NANCI crew in February this year after joining the Ipswich club in late 2016.

That followed Thomas being inspired by his ultramarathon contesting dad Michael, who completed the epic 250km Atacama Desert crossing over six days in 2014.

“I always had a bit of talent in running but I didn’t train,” Jude said.

However, after being invited aged 12 to run with his dad in Ipswich’s Parkrun, Jude came fourth overall against more experienced runners.

“He left me in the dust . . . and I haven’t caught him since,” Michael said.

The former Mt Crosby and Karalee state school student continued to run more after also discovering the mateship and social part of the sport.

Among his successes was winning a 16 years gold medal at his first All Schools Cross Country Championships representing St Edmund’s College.

He backed that up with another individual win at the Queensland State School Cross Country titles representing Met West.  Jude anchored the Met West team that won gold.

He collected more gold medals at the Queensland School Track and Field Championships (16 years 1500m) and at a UQ 1500m Classic event (U19 schools).

His favourite run this year was at an inter-college (AIC) 6km event on his home course at Limestone Park, where he was cheered on by his school mates.

However, after tackling the testing hills of Maleny at previous major events, Thomas expects the 6km Canberra cross country course to be more runner friendly.  This weekend, they will see what’s in store.

Tackling hill challenges for fun

AS someone who simply loves running, Jude Thomas trains seven days a week, working on his endurance and speed on different courses.

“I like to change it up.  I don’t really have a favourite area,” he said.

One of his most gruelling runs was 23km around Lake Manchester.  “That was very hilly but probably my toughest race was at Maleny,” he said.  “The nationals at the course was just brutal.”

It was on those Sunshine Coast hills that Thomas made his biggest impression this year, coming second at the national titles, and being the third placed finisher in the Oceania region.

“I haven’t really run a course that was remotely close to that hilly before,” he said.

“I didn’t really know what sort of tactics I’d use.  It was completely different racing.”