All-Empire girls cross-country: No teammates, no matter for Erin Thomas

Mendocino's Erin Thomas, the All Empire Small School Girls Cross Country Player of the Year.  (CONNER JAY / The Press Democrat)

Mendocino’s Erin Thomas, the All Empire Small School Girls Cross Country Player of the Year.
(CONNER JAY / The Press Democrat)

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

When Erin Thomas learned she’d been selected girls cross-country All-Empire runner of the year, her first instinct was to tell her teammates.

Then the Mendocino High runner remembered she doesn’t have any teammates. The senior was a one-girl team.

“No one at school came out for cross-country,” Thomas explained. “So, I just went to meets by myself and trained by myself.”

Well, she didn’t train by herself all the time.

Most of the season her dog, a pit bull/Labrador mix named Baxter, was her training partner. Most afternoons in the fall, the two would traverse an eight-mile course on Bald Hill in nearby Fort Bragg.

“As I got in better shape, Baxter couldn’t keep up with me,” Thomas said. “Then I had to leave him at home and run by myself.”

Thomas is being honored for finishing 12th in the state tournament (Division 5), third in North Coast Section (Division 5) and first in both the Coastal Mountain Conference meet and Sonoma Academy Invitational.

Thomas edged out Santa Rosa’s Delaney White and Maria Carrillo’s Shaz Breedlove for the top All-Empire honor.

While Thomas would have liked teammates, she got plenty of support when she raced.

“I always wore my school uniform,” she said. “When people realized I was the only runner from Mendocino, they’d cheer me on. It was pretty amazing.

“Still, it would’ve been better to have teammates. If I’d had other runners to train with, my meet times would’ve been better.”

Going into high school, cross-country running wasn’t the sport of choice for Thomas. She grew up playing soccer.

“I was ready for something different and I always enjoyed running for fun,” Thomas said.

Her father, Chris, encouraged her and became her coach.

Her freshman year, while still learning the intricacies of long-distance running, she finished 12th in the CMC season-ending meet. The next three years, she took home the blue ribbon.

“After her freshman year, she took running seriously,” her father said. “Training on her own, she had to develop self-discipline.”

Although she’s going to graduate high school in the spring, Thomas isn’t finished running. She plans to enroll at the University of San Francisco (majoring in biology) next fall.

Much to her delight, at USF, she’ll have teammates.

ALL-EMPIRE GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY

RUNNER OF THE YEAR
Erin Thomas, senior, Mendocino

FIRST TEAM
Cecilia Avelar, sophomore, Maria Carrillo
Shaz Breedlove, junior, Maria Carrillo
Molly Foster, senior, Analy
Alyssa Goody, sophomore, Sonoma Academy
Madison Parratt, sophomore, Petaluma
Saskia Vanommeren-Egberts, sophomore, Casa Grande
Delaney White, sophomore, Santa Rosa

SECOND TEAM
Carolina Avelar, sophomore, Maria Carrillo
Adria Barich, sophomore, Casa Grande
Emma Douch, freshman, Analy
Andrea Gonzalez, junior, Casa Grande
Hannah Haley, senior, Windsor
Ileana Moon, sophomore, Casa Grande
Mackenzi Segraves, senior, Maria Carrillo

THIRD TEAM
Allie Ahern, sophomore, Maria Carrillo
Ana Drake-Tripp, junior, Healdsburg
Maddy Libbey, sophomore, Sonoma Valley
Shannon Palladino, junior, Maria Carrillo
Sam Perry, junior, Maria Carrillo
Paloma Romero, senior, Piner
Sarah Tomaszewski, freshman, Windsor

GIRLS COACH OF THE YEAR
Greg Fogg, Maria Carrillo

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