It is not anything new for Slippery Rock to find a student-athlete that goes from a kid who plays for a small school to one of the most nationally-recognized athletes in their respective sports in the country, but rarely does the university find them right in its backyard.
Ryan Thompson is a Slippery Rock native and is known as one of the top Division II distance runners in the country. The senior All-American record-breaker came to SRU in 2012. Thompson said that he made the decision to stay local when he used to go watch his sister run when she was a part of the team.
“I came to a couple of her meets and I was in contact with the coach,” Thompson said. “Coach Papa, he’s recognized all over the country. He’s been in here for like 30 years or so, so I knew he had really successful programs in the past and he’s kind of worked with my running style, so I decided to stick around.”
Thompson’s decision to stay local turned him into a hometown hero. He finished the 2016-2017 indoor track season ranked 12th in the nation in the mile after running a 4:05.72. That time would earn him second-team All-American honors and add to a list of accolades to his indoor season.
He was named both regional and conference male track athlete of the year.
At the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Indoor Championship meet, Thompson contributed to the team’s overall second-place finish with a first-place finish in the mile, anchored the second-place distance medley relay and came in third in the 3000-meter. He was named the meet’s MVP.
His conference meet times were not his fastest of his season. His time at nationals and 8:27 finish in the 3000-meter earlier in the season were the fastest times posted in the Atlantic Region this year. His mile was both a school and conference record.
Thompson was announced conference athlete of the year on Wednesday, March 29. He said he was expecting to win after being named regional athlete of the year earlier.
“It was still cool to get another accolade,” Thompson said.
Head coach John Papa said in an interview with the university’s sports information department that he was very proud of Ryan.
“Ryan worked tremendously hard in the offseason and put together one of the best indoor seasons for any runner in SRU history,” Papa said. “He has already continued that momentum into the outdoor season.”
In his first race of the 2017 outdoor season, Thompson broke the SRU record and ran an NCAA provisional time in the 1500-meter at the Raleigh Relays with a time of 3:48.20. His 14th place finish was only outdone by Division I athletes.
“There is a lot of (Division I) competition down there,” Thompson said. “I knew it would be my chance to get the record.”
Already breaking records, Thompson seems to have carried his momentum from indoor into outdoor and is on the verge of repeating, if not outdoing, an incredible indoor season.
With a lot of races still to be ran and already running NCAA provisional times, the safety management major will have multiple opportunities to continue to break records and get awards before graduating from a school in Slippery Rock for the second time in his life.