Cheyenne Thompson is award-winning athlete, scholar

By Anne Riley

Photos contributed

If there’s one thing Cheyenne Thompson knows, it’s how to rise above the competition—both on the cross country course and in the classroom. Thompson’s record of success as a student-athlete is a collection of superior achievements, a wide variety of recognitions, and an array of broken race records under her belt.

Recently, Thompson was named the 2017 Peach Belt Conference Track Athlete of the Year. She also received the Jan Engles Award, recognizing her as Female Scholar Athlete of the Year at the University of Montevallo, and the Margaret Blalock award for Female Student Athlete of the Year. But these are hardly her first awards for excellence, and if past performance is any indicator of future success, they won’t be her last.

Thompson, who recently graduated from Montevallo with a degree in chemistry (focused on biochemistry), holds dozens of scholar-athlete distinctions. These include multiple appearances as a Gold Scholar on the Peach Belt Conference Presidential Honor Roll, back-to-back honors as an NCAA Division II Athletics Directors Association (D2ADA) Academic Achievement Award, and multiple selections to the NCAA Division II All-Southeast Region team by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

The list of recognitions, distinctions, and awards Thompson has received seems endless, as does her dedication to outstanding academic performance. She held a perfect 4.00 grade point average at Montevallo—a standard she began achieving in high school.

As the Valedictorian of Chelsea High School’s graduating class of 2013, Thompson’s high school years were punctuated by National Honor Society, Beta Club, and Key Club. Of course, it wasn’t all studying; she also recorded a personal best 5K time of 19:07 and nabbed 8th place overall in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Cross Country State Championship meet. These accomplishments served as a fitting beginning to her student-athlete career at Montevallo, where she would continue to set and exceed the highest of athletic and academic standards.

Montevallo women’s cross country and track and field coach Tommy Barksdale has called Thompson “an outstanding representative for both the cross country and track and field programs here at Montevallo,” and judging from the role Thompson played on her team, a truer statement has never been made.

Take, for example, the Falcons’ recent results at the Peach Belt Conference championship event hosted by the University of Montevallo. With a third-place finish and a total of 154.5 points, the University of Montevallo placed just 4.5 points behind UNC Pembroke, who came in runner-up. The winner was Nova Southeastern University with 214.5 total points.

At the same event, Thompson broke two records: the 1,500-meter with a time of 4:34.48, and the 3,000-meter Steeplechase at 10:57.01. Additionally, she finished runner-up in the 5,000-meter run and 7th in the 800-meter run. She also had the highest grade-point average in the championship event, received the Elite 15 Award Presented by EAB, and was named Track Athlete of the Year.

When asked about her relationship with her teammates, Thompson’s response was nothing short of glowing.

“The Montevallo cross-country team is one of those teams where you feel like everyone around you is family,” she said. “I had a few teammates that I ran with the most and that were incredible supporters for me.”

Among those incredible supporters were Katherine Terino, Natalie Shoemaker, and Katie Nelson, who each played an invaluable role in encouraging Thompson—even during the year she wasn’t sure she wanted to keep running.

“What makes them family is knowing that no matter how upset we may occasionally get with each other (and it does not happen often with our girls), we will always have each other’s back,” Thompson said, citing her friends’ inspiring words, dedicated work ethics, and tolerance of her occasional singing during workouts on the track.

Her enthusiasm for her coaches—Coach Barksdale, Coach Julia, and Coach Q (a.k.a. Marquardt)—nearly bubbled over as she described their unfailing support and devotion to her success.

“I have a special relationship with my coaches,” Thompson said, mentioning Coach Barksdale’s enthusiasm at early-morning practices “when no one could possibly be as excited as he was.” Then there was Coach Julia, who, according to Thompson, is a “take-no-excuses kind of coach” who worked tirelessly to help the team accomplish its goals. Coach Q was “demanding without being demanding,” and always had a sense for when they needed to be pushed and when they needed to rest. Finally, there was Coach Balentine, who never directly coached Thompson but was “the most excited person you could see” whenever someone on the team did well.

“The incredible thing about each of my coaches is that I trust all of them 100 percent and value their advice and their opinions,” Thompson remarked. “They were with me through all the hours of running and studying.”

Additionally, Thompson appreciated her coaches’ support of her faith. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Thompson was able to complete her long runs—typically scheduled for Sundays—on the team’s off days, allowing her to attend church on Sundays instead of running.

Now that she has graduated from the University of Montevallo, Thompson is pursuing a master’s degree in medical science and plans to apply for medical school.

“Right now, I am not sure what kind of doctor I would like to be because in all my shadowing experiences and volunteering opportunities, I have seen many things that interest me tremendously,” Thompson said. “Some of the best advice I got while shadowing…is that when choosing what kind of doctor to be, it is important to think about the people that you most want to help, the people that you feel you could be the best advocate for. I am incredibly excited about this upcoming adventure.”