Glad to be back: WT hurdler Thetford makes long-awaited return to the track


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West Texas A&M hurdler and Amarillo High graduate Madison Thetford competed during the WT Spring Break Classic Friday. It was Thetford’s first competitive race in over a year after her season was cancelled last season due to the coronavirus pandemic. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]

When West Texas A&M hosted its Spring Break Classic to kickoff off the outdoor season Friday the event was treated more like a celebration to a dozen WT student-athletes who haven’t touched a track competitively in almost a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

One of those athletes is Amarillo High graduate and WT senior Madison Thetford.

Before Friday, Thetford hasn’t been able to compete for her school she loves so much since the WT men and women’s teams were told to go home before the NCAA Division II national indoor meet last March.

“There has been a lot of frustration,” Thetford said. “We weren’t able to finish indoor nationals, and we were told to go home when the pandemic was starting. That was frustrating because I felt we didn’t have a voice to stand up for ourselves.

“I will say that ever since the pandemic started West Texas A&M has done a tremendous job making sure every sport get on the field, on the court or on the track when we can. I’m very thankful for that.”

Due to eligibility reasons, Thetford sat out during the indoor season this past winter, and hadn’t been able to run outdoors in almost two years.

The always upbeat Thetford, who carries a smile on her face everywhere she goes, welcomed her long-waited return to the track in successful fashion Friday winning the 400-meter hurdles by posting a 1:07.40, followed by a third place finish in the 100-meter hurdles clocking a 14.67.

“It’s been almost two years since we’ve been able to run outdoors,” said Thetford. “I was super excited. But now that this first meet is over with I’ll be ready to get better each week.”

Thetford, and her teammates that had to miss the indoor season, weren’t the only ones frustrated. WT head coach Matt Stewart became more of a mental health instructor, as well as having to talk many of his into coming back to school.

“Just getting these athletes to come back was hard. “Stewart said, “To have everything end, and most of them graduating, we didn’t know what was next. “So trying to convince them to come get their Masters was tough, but most of them wanted to do it. There were some doubts if we’d even have a season but now we’re rolling.”

Stewart knew without a doubt that if anyone would return it was Thetford.

“I’m so proud to see Madison back,” Stewart said. “She’s been in my (track) camp since she was 16-years old at Amarillo High. I’ve known her a longtime and I want her to finish her career the right way. I know she wanted to get her Masters so it wasn’t a big sell to get her to comeback. She loves WT and she loves track. She’s awesome and a great leader.”

For Thetford — a University Interscholastic League Class 6A state qualifier in the 100-meter hurdles as a senior at AHS in 2016 — Friday wasn’t a normal day. Thetford compared it to being a freshman running for the first time all over again, so her goal was just to take in the moment.

“This was a great day,” Thetford said. “I feel like we’re getting back to normal, so it was great to have an outdoor meet. I was excited yet nervous, but we got to compete as a team, and I’m just so thankful.”

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