Ben Thomas has been Virginia Tech’s head cross country coach and distance coach since 2001 and now has 18 years of collegiate coaching experience. During 12 seasons coaching at Tech, the Hokies have emerged as contenders in not only the Atlantic Coast Conference and the NCAA Southeast Region, but the entire nation. Thomas is extremely familiar with the Hokie program, having competed in cross country and middle distance for Tech from 1987 to 1992.
The 2012 cross country was one of the program’s most successful as Thomas led his men’s team the program’s first ACC team title since joining the conference in 2004. Led by redshirt senior Will Mulherin, who captured the program’s first individual ACC championship, the squad earned the men’s program’s first trip to the NCAA Championships since 1987. Mulherin went on to earn his second All-America honor in consecutive years and became the first Hokie ever on the men’s side to achieve that honor.
The 2012 track season saw Thomas coach a distance crew that broke school track records in the outdoor 800m, 1,500m, 3,000m steeplechase, indoor 1,000m, mile, DMR, 3000m and 5,000m as well as the outdoor 4x800m, the 4x1,500m and the distance medley relays. Last season alone, Thomas’ distance unit had three individual ACC Champions. Will Mulherin won his third ACC outdoor title at 5000m, the only athlete to do so in the history of the ACC. He also set the outdoor school record in the 5,000-meter event at 13:41.06. Ryan Witt won the ACC 800m title indoors and Jason Cusack won the 3k Steeplechase at the ACC outdoor meet. Michael Hammond earned All-American honors in the outdoor 1500 finishing 4th, and also garnered All-ACC accolades in the outdoor 1,500-meter run as the runner-up. Sammy Dow broke the school-record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and qualified for the NCAA Championships.
In 2008, Tasmin Fanning placed ninth at the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 5000-meter event, setting a new school record of 15:37.73. Thomas also guided Fanning to two All-America performances at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. She placed third in 2008, the highest finish ever by a Virginia Tech athlete, and 12th out of 255 runners in 2007. Thomas led the women’s squad to the best season in program history in 2006 by posting an 18th-place finish in their first-ever appearance at the NCAA Championships. The Hokie women reached the national meet following a third-place effort at the NCAA Southeast Regional behind an unprecedented five all-region performers. The men captured their best-ever point total at the ACC Outdoor Championships and had their best performance in the NCAA Southeast Regional since 1995. Paul LaPenna became the first Hokie to earn all-region honors since 2003, while Cornwall was named the ACC Freshman of the Year.
Thomas served as the men’s and women’s distance coach at the University of Georgia for six months before arriving in Blacksburg, and prior to that he was the head track and field and cross country coach at Brevard College. At Brevard, Thomas was named 1999 NAIA Region XII Coach of the Year after leading the men’s cross country team to the NAIA Region XII title. Before Brevard, Thomas was the women’s cross country coach and assistant track coach at Appalachian State University from 1995-1999.
A native of Lynchburg, Va., Thomas earned a B.A. in English from Virginia Tech in 1992 before completing coursework for an M.A. in education from Lynchburg College in 1999. Thomas began his coaching career with the track & field team at E.C. Glass High School (1992-94) in Lynchburg and coaching cross country at Blacksburg High School (1994-95).
Thomas, his wife, Ann McGranahan, and their daughter, Reily Kathleen Thomas, reside in Blacksburg.