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September 14, 2007
Vol. 49 No. 2

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In the Limelight

Thistle sets sights on nationals

Paul Thistle
PAUL THISTLE
Starting with his freshman year in high school, Paul Thistle had just one goal: to qualify for the cross country state championship meet.

After three years of disappointment, Thistle qualified during his senior year and finished 16th, beating 10 runners who had beaten him the week before at the District 1 championships.

Now a sophomore at Susquehanna, Thistle has already proven that his success in high school was not a fluke.

As a freshman last year, Thistle finished fifth at the Middle Atlantic Conference cross country championships, earning him a spot on the First-Team All-Conference team and the title Rookie of the Year.

At the regional championships two weeks later, with a national championship berth at stake, Thistle finished 39th, not quite making the cut.

Currently the No. 1 runner for Susquehanna, Thistle has already locked up top honors in the new Landmark Conference, collecting the inaugural Landmark Conference Male Runner of the Week honor during the first week of the season.

Thistle earned this honor after placing third at the Bucknell Invitational, covering the three-mile course in 15:03.99.

As is true for most athletes, there is a certain spark that propels one to start a new sport.
For Thistle, it came from someone close to him.

Thistle followed in the footsteps of his older brother, who ran cross country and track and field.

While initially wanting to play football, his older brother convinced him to give cross country a try, and he never looked back.

With the drive and determination to compete instilled within him, Thistle said he feels as though running sets him free.

"Running, to me, is a release and a freedom. Nothing is holding me back when I run. It's the freedom I have that I can only hold myself back," Thistle said.

"I feel as if I've been blessed with a gift to run, and I take advantage of that gift. It is a part of who I am," Thistle said.

While that release drives him to compete, it all starts with a goal to be better than his last time on the course.

At the 2006 Mideast Regional Championships where he finished 39th, a feeling of disappointment crept over him until this season.

He said his goal for this season is simple: win the Landmark Conference individual and team championships, finish in the top six at the regional meet as a team and in the top 10 individually, as well as qualify for the national championship race.

Since Thistle was a freshman, head coach Marty Owens said he does not view the end to last season as a disappointment, but rather as a learning experience, giving Thistle an even stronger desire to be better this season.

"I think with that extra desire and his work ethic, he is primed for an amazing last three years at Susquehanna University," Owens said.

"I think that is the scary part for the rest of the conference," Owens said.

The challenge to win this year is a daunting task but one Owens said he thinks Thistle is ready for.

"I know he wants to beat others in the race, but sometimes you get the feeling that he is just competing against the course and the clock," Owens said.

"He seems to want to challenge himself to be the best runner he can be by achieving all the goals we have set for him this year," he said.

While he knows what success feels like as a high school state champion in the 3200-meter relay in outdoor track as a senior, Thistle said he is very excited for this season from a team standpoint.

"I like the attitude, drive and commitment from the team as a whole, especially the seven freshmen," Thistle said.

"I feel as if we've been running together more than the three-and-a-half weeks we have been. Each day we get more cohesive as a team," he said.

Whether he is on the cross country course or on the track, Thistle said he lives to compete and will keep competing well past his college years.

"I feel that I have unfinished business and goals that I want to achieve all the way through the Masters series," Thistle said.

"I see myself as a role model, influencing those younger than me. I have to keep that influence strong for them and for myself," he said.

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