Ben Thomas, Head Track and Field Coach, Virginia Tech ’92
Describe your excitement when you first heard of the opportunity to coach at Virginia Tech?
My earliest memory of wanting to coach was watching/learning from my coaches, Todd Scully and Russ Whitenack, at Virginia Tech and thinking “this would be the greatest job in the world!” To be able to help student-athletes achieve their dreams and go beyond. When the head coach opportunity at Virginia Tech came open, I felt like it was meant to be. To ultimately have the support of my mentor, Dave Cianelli, and the incredible administration here was incredibly humbling, and a longtime dream come true.
How did it feel to step back on campus knowing that you will be leading the program next year?
Inspiring. It is amazing to see how far the track and field program has come since we started in 2001, and the athletic program in general. All credit really goes to Coach Cianelli, athletic directors Jim Weaver and Whit Babcock, and their staffs over the years.
What is your favorite memory from coaching at Virginia Tech?
Every ACC championship was special in its own way. Finally winning the national title in the distance medley relay event in 2018 after having had eight NCAA runner-up finishes was very special. Really, the best memories are of the times spent with the student-athletes, through all the challenges and the triumphs.
Who are some of your mentors and what have you taken from them as a coach?
Dave Cianelli, Virginia Tech director of track and field/cross country: “Keep your head about you and don’t be in such a hurry with your athletes or your assistant coaches. Do the hard work and do things the right way and you’ll win your share. I want us to win really badly, but I don’t care who gets the credit.”
Rod Camden, EC Glass High School cross country coach: “So much of success is just showing up and going about the hard work the same, through both the wins and the losses.”
Frank Murray, EC Glass High School track coach: “I believe in you, and you should too.”
Robert Johnson, University of Oregon: “Get out of your comfort zone, that’s where you get better.”
What do you love about coaching?
Having a front row seat to watching our student-athletes grow as human beings. I also love getting to see them enjoy their successes with their teammates and their families.
What do you love about Blacksburg?
The people, the places, the vibe, and oat fudge bars from Bollo’s.
Stealing a line from the book/movie Field of Dreams:
Terrance, looking out in wonder: “Is this heaven Ray?”
Ray: “No Terrance, it’s Blacksburg.”
When you are not coaching, what do you like to do?
Watch my kids play and perform, riding my bike, and going on a date with my wife; dinner and then a movie at the Lyric Theatre.
Virginia Tech Athletics