Three years ago, Raceland senior Cole Thomas uttered the question, “What is shot put?”
Next weekend, he’ll be shooting for the state title in that event.
Thomas played an important role in convincing lifelong friend John Valencourt to run track two years ago. After some hesitation, Valencourt suited up and eventually ran to a regional title in the 400 run as a junior.
On Friday, two of Raceland’s top track and field talents signed letters of intent to be future University of Pikeville athletes.
With quite the contrast in appearance — Thomas is 6-foot-6, 340 pounds; Valencourt is 5-11, 155 — they wouldn’t have their college destination work out any other way. And, yes, they’ll be roommates.
“We went to school together since day care,” Valencourt said. “From day care to college, I guess. It’s crazy.”
Pikeville men’s track coach John Biery approached both Thomas and Valencourt during the Area 7 Track and Field Championships last Saturday at Ashland Blazer High School.
Two days later, they took a campus visit. Four days after that, they solidified their college choice with a few strikes of a pen inside Raceland-Worthington High School’s library.
“It kind of came out of nowhere,” Valencourt said. “I couldn’t be happier for either one of us. I know both of us are going to succeed because we want this.”
Valencourt and Thomas will compete today in the Class A Region 7 Meet at Rowan County Senior High School. The Rams should contend for the team title.
Valencourt’s health is just now returning to 100 percent after he suffered an ACL/meniscus injury during his senior football season. While the recovery was tough at times, the process did inspire him to pursue a career in physical therapy.
Having only participated in four meets this season, Valencourt has steadily improved his numbers each time. His goal is to finish 400 meters in fewer than 53 seconds, as he did last season when he competed in three State Meet events.
Thomas placed 16th in the shot put as a sophomore at the State Meet, and then came in seventh a year ago. He said that he and his closest competition this season are separated by mere inches.
Pretty impressive results considering he had no clue what he was getting into three years ago.
“(Former Raceland football and track athlete) Brian Caudill came up to me and asked if I wanted to throw shot put,” Thomas remembered. “I was like, what is shot put? I was pretty good from the get-go.”
His personal bests are 48 feet, 6 1/2 inches in shot put and 86 feet in the discus throw. He will try hammer throw at Pikeville.
Thomas got back into football after a few years off, but mainly as a place kicker last season.
Track and field is more his thing, made evident by Friday’s signing.
“It’s really exciting to know that I’m getting a chance for the next chapter in my life along with one of my good friends,” said Thomas, who plans to major in business.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at