Althea Thomas - Women's Cross Country - Vanderbilt University Athletics

Althea Thomas

Director of Cross Country • Track and Field

Coaching Highlights
Track & Field
43 – All-America selections
3 – World Athletics Championships qualifications
2 – Olympians
1 – Pan American Games selection
3 – Individual NCAA titles
3 – SEC Athlete of the Year awards
2 – Individual SEC champions at Vanderbilt
3 – Individual NCAA Regional titles
1 – SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year
1 – NCAA East Region record
1 – SEC freshman record
1 – Pan Am U20 champion
1 – USATF U20 champion
30 – School records at Vanderbilt
2021 USTFCCCA South Region Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year

Cross Country
1 – All-SEC Freshman team selection
4 – All-South Region selections
4 – College Sports Communicators Academic All-District selections

Althea Thomas took over as Vanderbilt’s director of cross country and track and field on July 8, 2021. She brings 18 years of coaching experience to Nashville, including three stops in the SEC with the last four seasons spent at Georgia. Most recently, Thomas served as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator for the Bulldogs where she led the men and women’s sprints, hurdles and relays.

“Coach Thomas is highly respected in the track and field community with a deep commitment to developing student-athletes athletically and academically,” vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletic director Candice Lee said. “Her integrity, coaching pedigree and experience in the SEC made her the ideal candidate to lead our cross country and track and field programs.”

Achievements at Vanderbilt – Director of Cross Country and Track & Field (2021–present)
In her third season at the helm, Thomas’ team brought home an individual NCAA title (Veronica Fraley, discus) and a top 25 team finish for the second consecutive season. At the SEC Outdoor Championships, she led the Commodores to a team finish that tied their best in program history. The team tallied 45 points to place eighth. Vanderbilt scoring came in all disciplines, highlighted by SEC Field Athlete of the Year Fraley’s win in the shot put and runner-up finish in the discus.

At the 2024 SEC Indoor Championships, the Dores scored in six of 11 events to tally 25 points. Giavonna Meeks’ 23.04-meter weight throw mark was first in SEC freshman history and second all-time among freshman collegians. She walked away from the SEC Championships with a bronze medal. Meeks would go on to place sixth in the weight throw at the NCAA Indoor Championships, the best finish by a freshman in the weight throw at nationals since 2004.

Five Commodores earned spots on international teams during the summer of 2023. In the U20 division, Audrey Allman (1,500m), Allyria McBride (400mH) and Meeks (hammer throw) were selected to Team USA for the Pan American U20 Championships. Meeks was the hammer throw title and McBride was a bronze medalist in the 400-meter hurdles at the Pan American games. In the senior division, Brooke Overholt, representing Canada, and Fraley, representing the United States, competed at the World Athletics Championships in their respective events, the 400-meter hurdles and discus.

During the 2023 NCAA season, Thomas led the team to a 20th-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, its best since 1997. Five student-athletes earned All-America honors, including Beatrice Juskeviciute, who was the runner-up in the heptathlon.

Twelve Dores qualified for the 2023 NCAA East First Round in 10 events, with six advancing to the NCAA final in seven events. Fraley claimed the regional shot put and discus titles.

At the SEC Outdoor Championships, Thomas boasted two individual champions, Fraley in the discus and Juskeviciute in the heptathlon, and six additional scoring performances across three disciplines.

At the indoor conference championships, Vanderbilt earned one silver and three bronze medals; the team recorded three other scoring performances to finish ninth with 33 points.

In her first season with the Commodores, Thomas coached student-athletes to six indoor and outdoor All-America selections. Taiya Shelby broke the indoor 400-meter school record and had the No. 2 performance in program history in the outdoor 400 meters—earning second-team All-America recognition in both events. Three-time All-American Divine Oladipo earned first-team honors in the outdoor shot put and was a second-team selection in the discus and indoor shot put. Grace Jensen’s performance in the 1,500 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Championships earned her second-team All-America recognition.

At the 2022 SEC Outdoor Championships, Vanderbilt notched seven scoring performances. During the SEC Indoor Championships, Oladipo earned a silver medal in the shot put and second-team All-SEC honors. Shelby and Jensen qualified for finals in the 400 meters and the mile, respectively.

Prior to Vanderbilt
At Georgia – Associate Head Coach and Recruiting Coordinator (2017–21)
During her time in Athens, Thomas was a part of two NCAA Championship-winning teams and guided student-athletes to achieving 39 top-10 marks in the school record book, including 11 program records and one NCAA meet record.

In 2018, her first full season with the Bulldogs, Thomas coached Lynna Irby, who scored a combined 28 points at nationals, as the women’s team won its first NCAA indoor title and was the runner-up to the outdoor team crown. Irby was named the indoor and outdoor USTFCCCA South Region Women’s Track Athlete of the Year, winning the NCAA title in the 400 meters and breaking the NCAA meet record with the No. 2 time in collegiate history, 49.80 seconds. Just 30 minutes after setting a new 400-meter meet record, she returned to the track to place third in the 200 meters.

Elijah Godwin, the 2019 SEC Men’s Co-Freshman Runner of the Year, recorded the No. 7 mark in Georgia history in the 200 meters and the No. 9 mark in program history in the 400 meters with Thomas’ guidance. In the same year, Michael Nicholls broke the school record in the 60-meter hurdles and earned All-America honors in the 60 and 110-meter hurdles. At the 2019 NCAA Indoor Championships, the women’s 4×400-meter relay earned All-America recognition, and Irby was named an All-American in the 400 meters.

In 2020, Thomas coached her second-consecutive SEC Men’s Freshman Runner of the Year, Matthew Boling, who broke the school’s 11-year-old 200 meter school record and recorded the No. 4 time in the NCAA that year. At that year’s SEC Indoor Championships, Thomas’ sprinters scored a combined 24 points, and Amber Tanner captured the program’s first 800 meter conference title since 1995. On the men’s side, Godwin finished third in the 400 meters at the conference championships and advanced to the NCAA finals with the seventh-ranked 400-meter time that year. His time was also No. 3 all-time in program history.

In 2021, Boling won the NCAA title in the indoor 200 meters and was a first-team All-America selection in the indoor 200 meters and the outdoor 100 meters, 200 meters and 4×100-meter relay. In the outdoor 800 meters, Tanner won the SEC event title and earned All-America honors. Three-time All-American Godwin earned a silver medal in the mixed relay at the 2020 Olympics. The Georgia men finished second in the 4×100-meter relay and fourth in the indoor 4×400-meter relay at the NCAA Championships.

At Clemson – Assistant Coach (2013–17)
Before arriving at Georgia, Thomas spent four years as an assistant coach at Clemson. There, she coached four ACC relay champions, three ACC individual champions, two All-America relay teams and a USA Junior champion, along with 22 All-ACC student-athletes. The Tigers swept the women’s ACC indoor and outdoor team titles in 2015.

At Purdue – Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator (2012–13)
While at Purdue in 2012–13, Thomas coached Boilermakers to setting three school records, earning one Big Ten individual title and one second-team All-America selection, and she developed 10 student-athletes to nine all-time top-5 marks in program history.

At Kentucky – Assistant Coach (2010–12)
Thomas was an assistant coach at Kentucky from 2010 to 2012 after spending two years at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. While in Lexington, she tutored two All-Americans, including Olympian Jenna Martin.

The beginnings of a coaching career
Thomas began her coaching career as a volunteer student assistant at LSU in 2003–04 and then served as assistant coach at Huffman High School (Alabama) from 2004 to 2006 and head coach for the Alabama Striders Track Club from 2005 to 2010.

As a student-athlete, Thomas was a two-time NCAA outdoor team champion (2000, 2003) at LSU. She was a provisional NCAA qualifier in the 800 meters and a national qualifier in the 400-meter hurdles in 2003.

Thomas, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, earned her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Louisiana State University in 2004.

Coaching Experience
 Director of Cross Country and Track & Field, Vanderbilt (2021–present)
 Associate Head Coach & Recruiting Coordinator, Georgia (2017–21)
 Assistant Coach, Clemson (2013–17)
 Assistant Coach & Recruiting Coordinator, Purdue (2012–13)
 Assistant Coach, Kentucky (2010–12)
 Assistant Coach & Recruiting Coordinator, UAB (2008–10)
 Head Coach, Alabama Striders Track Club (2005–10)
 Assistant Coach, Huffman High School (2004–06)
 Volunteer Student Assistant, LSU (2003–04)