The Thomson family lived and breathed football when they arrived in Fallon 20 years ago.
Naturally, it came as a surprise that Tristen Thomson, whose father Tommy coached the Greenwave football team for several years, found his passion in long distance running.
“I didn’t really appreciate cross country much,” Tommy Thomson said. “I used to think cross country was for people who didn’t have athletic ability but could run. Cross country really opened my eyes. I takes gifted athletes and athletes really dedicated to the sport. You can’t take a day off. If you take a day off, you lose two weeks. It showed lot of dedication and leadership.”
The eldest of three, Tristen was reluctant to go out for cross country but after seeing what he could do during middle school and with a little convincing, he found a new passion.
“I know my dad and he never really wants (younger brother) Trae or myself or be forced to play a sport,” Tristen said. “Once he saw my capability running in junior high plus, at times, when I played basketball, he saw a good future for me, at least in track. He wanted me to do cross county and encouraged me to.”
Tristen, though, did play football through the youth programs but when it came time to decide between running on the gridiron or against the desert landscape, he opted for the latter.
“He enjoys watching me run,” he said. “He would rather watch me run than play football.”
The Fallon senior capped off his final cross country season this past fall and prepares to close out his Greenwave career when the track and field team opens the spring season with its first meet next week. Tristen runs the 800-meter race along with the 1600 and both the 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams. He’s eying breaking the school record in the 800 and 1600 this season.
“Tristen has been a great surprise not only for Churchill County High School but for our family because No. 1, he’s done it all on his own,” said Tommy, who coached Tristen’s last two years in cross country while his wife, Summer, helped support team and take photographs. “To most people, running would be some type of discipline if someone does something wrong. For Tristen, it’s a joy to run.”
Tristen, though, made his mark in cross country, especially this past season and has attracted several NCAA Division II schools in California and Oregon. He finished second in the Division I-A regional meet and then took third at state.
“I never got into it competitively but then ran a competitive race in seventh grade,” Tristen said about his origin. “I wasn’t the best overall; I’m still not the best. I felt like I made impact in races recently. In my freshman year in cross country when Mitch Overlie got me into it, it revamped my thinking.”
Tommy then took over the cross country team and helped push his son farther. Having his younger brother, Trae, a freshman, on the team this season made the experience better as Tristen was named to the region’s first team and second team all-state.
“I definitely think being able to play a sport with a sibling builds the connection,” said Tristen, whose sister, Torre, is in eighth grade and could join cross country next season. “Being a freshman can be really intimidating but I’m proud he stepped up. He always finished strong. I gave him the best advice and he took it.”
During the high school season, Tristen competed in three 5K out-of-state meets as he faced stiffer competition and wanted to see where he stacked up against the region’s best. He didn’t disappoint, taking eighth out of 237 runners in Folsom and then 17th out of 185 large-class varsity runners at the University of Pacific. Tristen returned to Folsom for his third meet and shaved 38 seconds off his 17:16 time.
“It was honestly one of the toughest races,” Tristen said of the Folsom experiences. “It was flat for the most part. There were a lot of large hills and gradual large hills. They were rather difficult for a course. It played in my benefit because I’m used to the hills out here.”
Since competing in the cross country state meet, Tristen’s been busy.
Tristen won the town’s New Year’s Day 5K event and then traveled to Boise, Idaho, for an indoor meet, running the 4x800 with Elko and Spring Creek teammates in 8:21 and then the 800 in 2:12. Most recently, Tristen competed in Berkley, Calif., where he ran a 4:15 in the 1500 and 2:25 in the 800.
“He’s just a warrior. He’s got a heart nobody has,” Tommy said. “His off-the-field ways and how he handles himself among everyone, he’s a devoted Christian; he hardly misses church. You’re not going to find him doing anything against the athletic code because he trained so hard all the time. He’s doing very hard workouts in the evening but also has his own workouts with the Damonte coach.”
The competition has helped build up Tristen’s stock value in wanting to run collegiately.
“My goal is to go Division II,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been driving for.”
So far, Tristen has focused on Concordia University in both Portland, Ore., and Irvine, Calif., as well as Cal State Stanislaus in central California. He verbally committed to the Irvine school but is keeping his options open depending on his track season.
“The one I’m most interested in is in Irvine,” said Thomson, who’s exploring options in athletic administration or a physician’s assistance program. “I visited the campus in late October. I toured all the facilities, the track and talked to the coaches. I liked the location and it’s close to the ocean.”
For a family that loved football when it first arrived in Fallon, cross country has opened a lot of eyes and giving an opportunity for Tristen to excel in high school. The dedication and strict work ethic have helped pave the way for Tristen to compete at the next level. And it doesn’t hurt having a strong support team, beginning with his father coaching, his mother cheering him on and his siblings running alongside for the ride.
“As a father not only being able to coach him and be a parent to him, he sometimes amazes me,” Tommy said. “He actually amazes me. He’s got a big heart that carries those long legs. A lot of it is his determination.”