DANVILLE — Like most every high school senior, Danville’s Hallee Thomas has learned to adapt and adjust during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two-time state qualifier in the 100 hurdles for the Vikings had plans to earn a state medal in her junior season and to hopefully enhance her college opportunities.
She was the Big 12 Conference runner-up in the 60-meter hurdles, the pole vault and the 400 during the league’s indoor meet in early March, but that proved to be her final meet of 2020.
“I really wasn’t sure what was going on back then and I really didn’t have any solid offers when the season was called off last March,’’ Thomas said. “It was definitely nerve-wracking.’’
But those concerns have been put to rest.
On Sunday, Thomas signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Eastern Illinois University in Charleston where she will be a member of the Panthers women’s track & field team.
“I was definitely looking for a school with a good education program, because I plan on going into elementary education,’’ Thomas said. “Eastern Illinois is amazing for future teachers. That was something that I was really excited about.
“And, once I started talking with the coaching staff, things clicked so easily with them. That was also really important to me, because I’ve always had a good relationship with my coaches.’’
Because of the current protocols with the COVID-19 pandemic, Thomas wasn’t able to take an official visit to the Eastern Illinois campus, but she did get a virtual online tour.
“Going to state in my freshman and sophomore seasons, I’ve been able to see some of their facilities and some of the campus,’’ Thomas said. “Obviously, I didn’t get to see all of it on those weekends, but I really liked the atmosphere that was there, and I’m kind of familiar with the area.’’
Actually, Thomas has plenty of family members — all graduates of Eastern Illinois — that can aid her in settling into the Charleston community including her father, Mitch Thomas.
“As long as I’ve talked about going into elementary education, my family has tried to convince me to go to Eastern,’’ Thomas said. “They have all talked about how good the program is and how it really prepares you for the classroom.’’
Sunday’s signing is another step forward for Thomas, who is really looking forward to her senior season of track, albeit that she is going to miss the volleyball season.
“This is a slight overlap between volleyball and track, and I’ve really been training hard for the track season,’’ she said. “I’ve been working out on my own and I’ve been training with a vault club in Champaign.
“I lost so much training last year, I just feel it’s important for me to concentrate even more this year.’’
And that makes sense, considering that the hurdles and the pole vault are two of the more technical events in track & field.
“They are definitely technical and very different, but I also feel like they compliment each other,’’ said Thomas. “Steve Luke (former Danville coach) always talked about that he never had a vaulter that wasn’t also an excellent hurdler.
“You have to be both mentally strong and physically strong in both events.’’
Thomas says she has found a good balance between hurdling and the pole vault.
“When I was younger, I would go back-and-forth between the two,’’ she said. “I love them both.’’
But just her senior year of school, Thomas is prepared to adjust and adapt to anything thrown her way.