Under Pressure, UCF's Thomas Extended Her College Career

June 1, 2009

ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - Senior Dione Thomas (Jacksonville, Fla.) is in no rush for her collegiate track and field career to come to an end. A four-year standout at UCF, the Jacksonville native proved just that on Saturday at the NCAA East Regionals in Greensboro, N.C., assuring her career would continue with a fourth-place finish in the triple jump that automatically qualified her for nationals.

Thomas, an NCAA Indoor All-American in the triple jump, got off to a rocky start in flight three of the event on Saturday. On her first attempt, Thomas jumped 41-4.25/12.60m before fouling on her second try. Not in contention to move on and down to what could be the final jump of her college career, the pressure was on.

"After my second attempt, I knew that my third would have to be a big jump," said Thomas. "But to be honest, I was not discouraged. I was not letting the pressure get to me. I just knew that I had to block out all of my surroundings, stop focusing so hard on trying to make it to nationals, and just focus on me and what I needed to do."

She had saved her best for last. Thomas jumped 43-5.75/13.25m, a mark that eventually would punch her ticket to the NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., successfully extending her UCF career.

"I took a deep breath, got down in position, and believed in me," said Thomas. "Once I landed, I had no idea what mark it would be, but I didn't worry because I knew that in my mind, I had done what I needed to do. When I saw the mark, I was so excited and knew that I had made it to nationals."

The mark was also the first jump of her college career over 43 feet and a UCF school record, surpassing her previous mark of 42-9 set May 31, 2008.

"It feels wonderful to still be competing at this point as a senior," Thomas added. "If the regional meet was my last meet, I would have been disappointed it had to end that way, but I thank God for each opportunity that he is giving me to succeed. This is my first NCAA outdoor nationals and my last NCAA outdoor nationals, so I'm elated to have the opportunity to go compete at such a level for my last collegiate meet. My goals at nationals are to jump big, compete hard and get to the finals."

The NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, hosted by Arkansas, run from June 10-13 in Fayetteville, Ark. Thomas is one of three Knights that were automatic qualifiers for nationals. Others competing for UCF will be juniors LaKendra Thames (Winter Garden, Fla.) and Tiki James (Miami, Fla.) in the discus and the 100-meter hurdles respectively. Sophomore Lizzie Harris (Miami, Fla.), junior Kesley Poljansek (Milton, Kan.) and freshman Jackie Coward (Knoxville, Tenn.) await word on whether they will receive at-large invitations. Prior to this season, the program had just one representative at the NCAA Championships, LesSundra Ford (high jump) in 2004.

For the latest news on the Knights, log on to UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.