Kathleen Thompson Challenging Herself On and Off the Course

Sept. 15, 2011


Junior Kathleen Thompson has been challenging herself since she was eight years old and started competing in nationals. The Chesterfield, Mo. native watched her sister run a cross country event and told her dad that she wanted to run as well. Knowing running cross country is not something every little kid can do, her dad challenged her to go out and run two miles without stopping before he would enter her in any competition.

Being tested at such a young age was good for Thompson because it made coming into college as a civil engineering major that much easier. She knew that if she set her mind to it and wanted it bad enough, she could do anything.

Although, when it came to selecting a school, Thompson found out that not many were supportive in her dream to become a civil engineer.

“The reason I didn’t go to other schools was because their coaches were like `we don’t want you to be engineering major and try and do both that and cross country because they aren’t flexible’ and that’s basically why I didn’t go anywhere else,” said Thompson.

When Thompson was first recruited, Doug Clark was the assistant cross country/track and field coach at Kansas who contacted her. But by the time she graduated high school, she found out that Clark would no longer be her coach as he had left the school.

“I was waiting all summer to find out who the new coach would be which was kind of nerve-racking but Coach (Michael Whittelsey) Whitt has been amazing,” said Thompson. “I was afraid that I would come here and the new coach would come in and not like what I was doing but Coach Whitt has been absolutely amazing.”

“He is a great coach first of all just with the people that he’s trained and the progression that people have made under him but he’s also very understanding of your personal life and trying to balance both. Whittlesey is pushing me to do better athletically and academically so he is making sure everything fits well instead of just telling me to figure it out by myself. He’s done wonders for this program so far and he’s made my life a lot easier.”

091511aai_697_5643683.jpegNot only did the coaches make the decision easy for her, but Thompson also loved the tradition that Kansas has. The fact that her grandfather and uncles are alums made it feel even more like home.

“There were a lot of different reasons I came to Kansas,” said Thompson. “First of all, my mom’s dad and brothers all came to KU. My grandpa was a chemical engineer and one of my uncles was a pitcher on the baseball team so that’s kind of how KU got on the radar. I was basically looking for the best combination of athletics and academics.”

“My first impression was that KU was too big but it does kind of shrink down. You can see all of campus and it really isn’t that big so I just liked the feel of it. I came to campus on my official visit and it just felt like home so it was a pretty easy decision.”

Another choice Thompson had to make was a future career. Hurricane Katrina was one reason that Thompson decided she wanted to become a civil engineer. Unfortunately, being a student-athlete limits her free time to go help out in New Orleans or North and South Dakota that are also having trouble with the flooding so the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

“I want to work with water resources – hopefully out West – and work in the mountains with rivers and flood control is really the biggest thing,” said Thompson. “The devastation got to me because this shouldn’t be happening, you should be able to control it.”

091511aai_697_5643681.jpeg“The engineering school has programs called `Engineering Without Borders’ that travels to different places and help set up water pumps for people that don’t have water supplies and stuff like that. With sports it’s hard to get it all in so I haven’t been able to go help.”

Thompson is facing academic and athletic challenges everyday and even though school can get her down at times, she knows she can push through with her teammates by her side.

“Really the whole thing is about the team aspect because we all really want to get to nationals and of course I want to be a part of that,” said Thompson. “Individually I just want to stick with the other girls and help them out as much as I can.”

“Last week at Missouri I really found my confidence and found that competitive edge that I have kind of been missing for a whole year. I think I really found that and now I’m excited for the rest of the season.”