PORT ST. LUCIE — Kaleb Thomas had just finished running the 3.1-mile trek around the large lake at McCarty Ranch Preserve in a rural part of Port St. Lucie. The junior on the Okeechobee High School boys cross country team wasn’t thrilled with his performance.
“Not too good,” he said about his showing in the Tommy LaCayo Memorial Invitational in which he finished seventh on his team and 47th out of 76 boys in the varsity race.
But he wasn’t about to dwell on the negative; rather his thoughts quickly shifted to his next race and how he wanted to approach it. The Hard Rock Panther Prowl 5K on Oct. 6 would allow Thomas, who lives on the Brighton Reservation, to run a competitive, non-school race on the Big Cypress Reservation.
“My main focus for the BC run is to challenge myself … and see what I can do on my own,” he said.
All Thomas did on his own was win the race, which was open to anyone. He beat about 100 youth and adult runners, mostly from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. His time was 18 minutes, 22 seconds, which put him at a sub-6 minute pace per mile.
It was a vastly improved performance compared to the race at the lake where he said he went out too fast and finished in 22:58.
“I started off way too strong. I felt I should have backed down a little bit. If I backed down I probably would have got a better time,” he said.
His high school times this season have been in the 21s; his goal is to trim off a couple minutes and get into the 19s. He’s already shown plenty of improvement from when he first started running cross country as a Moore Haven High School Terrier when his debut time was 24 minutes.
Thomas said he loves to run. He often runs on the reservation around the Fred Smith Rodeo Arena. But he also uses cross country as a way to stay in shape for baseball, which he’s already looking forward to playing.
“I think we’re going to have a really good season this year,” he said.