From UMO Media Relations
MOUNT OLIVE – From track and field star to an officer in the U.S. military, University of Mount Olive alumnus Cedric Thomas is a role model for student-athletes everywhere.
A career in the military is something Thomas never expected. Growing up, his father was a military man so, Thomas was considered a “military brat,” attending over 15 schools from elementary school through high school. Thomas’s childhood was spent moving from place to place until his senior year of high school when his father was stationed in Fort Bragg, a military installation of the United States Army, in North Carolina.
Upon planning for life after high school graduation, a close-by college called the University of Mount Olive (UMO) drew Thomas’s attention. Attracted to its proximity to his family, its small size, and its successful track and field program, Thomas decided UMO would be a perfect next step for him.
During Thomas’s first year at the University of Mount Olive, he walked onto the track team. His coach at the time, Coach Matt Van Lierop, told Thomas, “…you know, if you are good enough, then you’ll earn a spot, and you’ll get some scholarship money.” It didn’t take long for Thomas to show off his talent and earn not only a spot but a scholarship as well, launching his sprinting career into full gear at UMO.
Throughout his four years at UMO, Thomas showed real strength and talent on the track. The events he competed in include the indoor track 60 meter(m), 200m, 400m, and relays and the outdoor track 100m, 200m, 400m, and relays. In his running career, Thomas captured multiple records at UMO, including fifth overall in school history in the 100m with a time of 10.73 seconds, third overall in the 200m with a time of 21.75 seconds, second overall in the indoor 60m with a time of 6.9 seconds, and fourth overall in the indoor 200m with a time of 22.27 seconds.
Looking back on Thomas’ career at UMO, Coach Jackie Kirby said, “Cedric planted himself in the UMO Track and Field record books, and it was a thrill to watch him run some of the fastest times in program history…”
While being fast is one thing many people remember about Thomas, it is far from the only thing. Thomas also excelled in the classroom and was a beloved student on UMO’s campus. Starting at UMO, Cedric did not consider himself, “a good academic student and [was] not… focused on that”. Yet, after looking back on his academic career, Thomas says, “academics definitely played a big role in my time at Mount Olive.”
The turning point in his academic career occurred in his sophomore year. After he received a scholarship to compete on the track and field team, Thomas knew he needed to keep his grades up to keep his scholarship, and that he did. From that point on, Thomas says he “hammered down,” studied hard, and made dean’s list every semester from that point on. This hard work did not go unnoticed.
In his last semester at UMO, Thomas applied for an internship in the Athletic Department at the University of Mount Olive. Many students sought this opportunity, and Thomas “didn’t think he was qualified for it.” Yet, due to his hard work, good grades, and determination Thomas was able to land an internship working closely with Vice President for Athletics, Jeff Eisen, and Associate Director of Athletics/Compliance Coordinator, Dr. LaToya Lindsey.
This internship was a positive experience for Thomas. “I remember my first day coming in, not really knowing what to expect…It taught me a lot. I had to work on my own. They trusted in me to plan events and do stuff that they were doing by myself. I loved being an intern.” Thomas equates many of his career accomplishments to the skills he mastered during his time as a student-athlete and intern at the University of Mount Olive.
Cedric Thomas is a recent graduate of Officer Candidate School (OCS), a military school that trains civilians and enlisted personnel to commission officers in the armed forces. Thomas, a Commissioned Infantry Officer, Second Lieutenant works in infantry and Adjunct General (AG).
Joining the military was not Thomas’ first choice after graduation, but it turned out to be the right one. Thomas’s father, “his role model in every aspect,” encouraged him to join the military for years. Yet, it was Thomas’s wife, whom he met while attending UMO that was the primary factor he considered while making his decision. Though she was just his girlfriend at the time, Thomas knew that he was going to ask for her hand in marriage and said, “I made the decision to enlist to be able to both provide for my family and… to set a foundation for myself. And it has worked out tremendously.”
Not knowing if he would like this path, Thomas enlisted and signed a small contract in aviation. “My job in aviation was… to assist pilots…it’s [was] like the human resource type of flying…keeping track of [the pilot’s] records and stuff like that,” Thomas explained.
After finding success and joy in this job, Thomas started OSC, a competitive school in the military. “There are 160 people in a class, and the higher you are in the class, the better or more likely it is for you to get the job that you want.” Thomas said, “I graduated pretty high in my class and got my number one choice, which was infantry with a detail in AG.”
In the past, Thomas did not even consider a military career, yet now, it is his whole future. Thomas is proud of all he has accomplished and seeks more opportunities and challenges in his career moving forward.
“I had a goal of going to OSC. I did it. And everything that I’ve said I was going to do as far as up to this point I’ve done. So, I’m not only proud of myself, but it means a lot to myself that I’ve actually done everything I said I was going to do.” Thomas said.
As for his future, Thomas has plans to keep challenging himself in his career. Some aspirations include attending Jungle School in Hawaii, Ranger School, and Graduate School, making it to General in the military, and eventually giving back to UMO. Thomas’s journey from being a student-athlete to being the military professional is inspiring to many.
“Cedric is an outstanding and upstanding person. He always worked hard on and off the track, and he always motivated his teammates to be better athletes and people. Cedric was a tremendous team player, and he always worked for the team’s success above his own personal success.” Kirby said.
Cedric is remembered by his coaches, teachers, and peers at Mount Olive as a great athlete, student, and leader. To current student-athletes at UMO, Thomas encourages you to “take the time to not only perfect your craft but…to work on yourself…Soak in every moment that you get because, it’s generic and everybody says it but, when the time is up, it is up…whatever the case is, just enjoy your time at UMO and network, network, network.”
Thomas currently resides in Hawaii with his wife Ayanna and daughter Harmony.