By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - Jared Thomas' track and field career began as a ninth grader after he finally gave in.
A friend at Pensacola High School had asked him numerous times since middle school to come out and give throwing events a try. Thomas finally said yes.
Thomas instantly discovered that he had a natural talent for the discus event while competing with athletes in a fun manner.
"I started trying it out and was like, 'Oh, I can beat ya'll,'" Thomas said.
A little taste of competition has turned into something very big for Thomas at USF. All-American status has been earned, school records have been broken and his greatest throw yet came two weeks ago when he posted a mark of 201 feet, easily breaking the top school feat.
"It was shocking," Thomas said.
It also was way more than good enough to qualify the senior for the NCAA East Preliminaries that take place Thursday through Saturday in Jacksonville. Thomas will be joined by 17 other Bulls at the meet after they all posted marks in the top 48 of respective events in the region to qualify.
"The main thing for this meet is to place top 12 to get to nationals," said Thomas, a two-time national qualifier that placed 12th last season.
A third time certainly would be sweet for a student-athlete that's had quite a career. Thomas caught USF's attention during his state championship junior season in Pensacola and Bulls coaches were hoping to lock up the commitment quickly.
"We caught him before he threw 180 feet," USF throws coach Toby Colyer said. "We knew he was capable of big things, so we went after him pretty tough."
Colyer also noticed a special quality about Thomas that made the decision to bring him in a no-brainer.
"Once I started recruiting him his personality really started to take effect. I knew he wanted to be really good," Colyer said. "Sometimes when you recruit kids you don't know how much they really want to do this. Recruiting him was easy."
It didn't take much longer for Thomas to catch the attention of FSU coaches, but it was already too late. He'd committed to USF and he was dedicated to becoming a Bull.
"I'm very happy and I try to tell everybody all the time about USF," Thomas said.
Thomas has played a huge role in getting the USF name out there by achieving a ton of success out on the track. He owns indoor and outdoor school records, keepings climbing the ladder at the NCAA Championships and now owns the 201-foot discus mark that would make some athletes very content.
"I wasn't even satisfied that I threw 201. I still want it," Thomas said. "When I get to the meet I know what I can do. I'm never satisfied."
Thomas' hunger to become great each time out is what sets him apart from many athletes and is one of the many reasons he will be remembered for a long time at USF.
"When it's time to compete he steps in the ring and he takes care of business," head coach Warren Bye said. "You talk about guys who hate to lose, he loves to win."
Here is a complete list of USF's qualifiers for the NCAA East Preliminaries:
Event - name, qualifying mark (East rank)
100 meters - Dariel Jackson, 11. 61 (41)
200 meters - Dariel Jackson, 23.59 (19)
400 meters - Rachael James, 53.39 (23)
800 meters - Shaniel Chambers, 2:06.19 (17); Yasmin Smith, 2:06.78 (23)
3K steeplechase - Nicole Rozario, 10:19. 68 (24)
5K - Allie Prendergast, 16:35.94 (39)
Pole vault - Nicole Smith, 12' 9.5" (30)
Triple jump - Marqueshia Stallworth, 41' 10" (26); Monique Williams, 41' 3.75" (45)
Shot put - Atasha Warren, 52' (17)
Discus - Atasha Warren, 160' 2" (36)
200 meters - Reshaw Exilien, 21.09 (37)
400 meters - Pascal Orelus, 46.46 (21); Reshaw Exilien, 47.26 (45)
400-meter hurdles - David Aristil, 50.68 (9)
4x400 relay - David Aristil, Pascal Orelus, Reshaw Exilien, Franklin Mosely, 3:08.69 (17)
Pole vault - Drew Volz, 16' 9.25" (39)
Long jump - Neamen Wise, 26' (5)
Triple jump - Shane Lewis, 50' 0.75" (34)
Discus - Jared Thomas, 201' (1)