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Kaleb Thomas strives for memorable senior season on OHS cross country

BOCA RATON — Kaleb Thomas wants to make his final high school cross country season one to remember.

So the determined Okeechobee High School senior trained this past summer in a way he had never before. He left a lot of sweat on the Brighton Reservation in preparation for the season.

Okeechobee High School senior Kaleb Thomas, center with #766 bib, runs in the middle of the pack at the start of the 3A boys race in the 37th annual Spanish River Cross Country Invitaitonal high school meet Sept. 14 at South County Regional Park in Boca Raton. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

“I ran the whole summer,” he said Sept. 14 as OHS competed in the Spanish River Invitational in Boca Raton. “It was different from any other summer I’ve had. I came into this season very good. I ran every day. I put in a lot of work. I think it’s because it’s my senior year and my last year of high school cross country and I want to enjoy it. Last year I didn’t train as hard.”

Except for one hiccup, the hard work has paid off as Thomas has consistently been among the team’s top three runners.

The exception came in a race in early September when his time was in the 24-minute mark, which he deemed unacceptable.

“That was probably my worst race at Okeechobee,” he said. “Terrible form.”

Kaleb Thomas, from the Brighton Reservation, warms up with his Okeechobee High School cross country teammates before the Spanish River Cross Country Invitational. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

Before his next race – the Spanish River Invite – Thomas regrouped and zeroed in on making improvements in practices. With the number of races left in his high school career dwindling, Thomas wasn’t about to let one bump in the road impact his entire season.

“This past week I just worked on my form and it definitely showed a big improvement with this race,” he said after he finished with a time of 22:08 at South County Regional Park.

He said his stretch run – the final portion of the race where runners empty their tanks with everything they have left – was far better than his previous race. His time was the third fastest on the team behind Zachary Friend and Aiden Adamo.

While Thomas said it’s important to try to keep moving up in his rankings on the team, he said improving his times is at the top of his agenda.

Kaleb Thomas sprints in the final yards of the 3.1 mile Spanish River Cross Country Invitatational. He finished in 22:08. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

“Mostly focusing on my times. I want to break 19 this year and get into 18s. I’m just going to work very hard at practice and see where I go from there,” he said.

His PR – personal record – came last year with a 19:46 time.

Thomas is the only senior on the squad, but he’s not the only Seminole. Dakota Entry and Jace Brown are also on the team. Thomas recruited Brown, a freshman, to come out for the team.

Okeechobee, which has regular season meets in Port St. Lucie, Sebastian and Arcadia in October, will compete in the Class 3A-District 4 meet on Oct. 26.

Thomas said a goal of his is to advance past district and qualify for regionals.

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