Free State’s Cameryn Thomas signs with Kansas, Gabe del Valle inks with Baker for track and field
photo by: Chris Duderstadt
Free State senior track and field athletes Cameryn Thomas and Gabe del Valle both have one particular event in which they’ve thrived during their high school careers, but they haven’t been afraid to test their talents in other areas of the sport throughout the past four years.
Thomas and del Valle’s willingness to compete in multiple events has paid off for the Firebirds with scoring more points at meets, and it also caught the eyes of area college coaches. Thomas signed her letter of intent to Kansas and del Valle inked with Baker on Monday during a ceremony at FSHS, and they’re excited about the opportunity to become even more well-rounded as multi-event athletes at the next level.
“Being able to see all of the success that has come out of the jumps and multis program really drew me into KU,” Thomas said. “It really helped me make my decision.”
After placing sixth in the long jump and running on the Firebirds’ 4×400-meter relay at the state meet last spring, Thomas added the hurdles to her repertoire in the summer. Thomas has started to hit her stride in the 100-and 300-meter hurdles after earning personal-best times of 16.40 and 48.62 on Friday at the Shawnee Mission North Relays.
“I didn’t exactly place where I wanted to, but I definitely got my times down to where I think I can set some reasonable goals going into the future and the rest of my high school career,” Thomas said. “It just gives me a lot of confidence to see where I’m going to be at in regionals and at the state meet.”
The Kansas signee had always been hesitant about becoming a multi-athlete, but she finally took a leap of faith after talking with a former Kansas State track and field standout. Thomas trained with two-time USATF indoor high jump champion Gwen Wentland-Mikinski over the summer and went full speed ahead from there.
“She really kind of encouraged me to do them and she’s really what ultimately made me choose to become a multi-athlete,” Thomas said. “I’ve had people tell me in the past to do them and I’ve always been scared to do them. I kind of fell in love with them and I’m excited to continue my multis career.”
While Thomas called KU “the perfect fit” when it came to the program she was looking for, she still has some big plans for her final three high school meets. Thomas has set the goal of qualifying for state in the 100 and 300 hurdles, 400 meters and long jump.
“I’d like to PR and possibly get a shot at a state championship in one of my events,” Thomas said.
Just like Thomas, del Valle had a breakthrough performance at the SM North Relays. The Free State senior finished third in the javelin with a throw of 169 feet, 4 inches, which only trailed Lawrence High seniors and future Baker teammates Hunter Krom (200 feet, 8 inches) and Harrison King (179 feet, 2 inches).
The Baker javelin crew already has a lot of Lawrence flavor between Free State products Simeon Windibiziri and Tyler Winsor — both who have qualified for the NAIA Outdoor Championships.
“It’s really fun knowing that I’ll go into something that my former teammates have gone into altogether,” del Valle said. “It’s really becoming a family, I’d like to say.”
The Baker signee plans to focus on the javelin at the next level, but del Valle is looking forward to taking the steps to becoming a decathlete, as well.
“I’ve only done two events out of the decathlon, so we’re really going to have to practice those eight others,” del Valle said. “It’s going to be a field day.”
Del Valle’s excitement about Baker wasn’t just limited to joining the track and field team either.
“I love the campus. I love the people there,” del Valle said. “When I went on a tour, it was phenomenal. It was like no other campus that I’ve toured before. Mixing athletics with the people just sounds really, really fun.”