Lanie Thompson, one of the greastest distance runners in New Jersey history, has found a new home for the next level of competition, and she didn’t need the full complement of college visits to make what is usually an angst-filled decision for most high school seniors.
Immediately after she won an unprecedented fourth straight Skyland Conference title on Thursday in a meet and course record 17:47.5, Thompson, a senior at Voorhees High in Glen Gardner, N.J., announced that she gave a verbal commitment to coach Vin Lananna and the University of Oregon.
Thompson is New Jersey’s reigning state champion in the distance events for all three seasons. As a junior, Thompson won the New Jersey distance triple crown – the cross-country Meet of Champions title, and both indoor and outdoor track M of C titles in the 3,200 meters.
She currently owns the second-fastest time of the season at Holmdel Park, the state’s championship course, with an 18:14, and is one of only two unbeaten New Jersey runners on the trails this fall.
She visited the Oregon campus last weekend and informed Lananna of her decision the day before she returned home. Thompson visited Georgetown last month, and had planned to make official visits to Duke, Stanford and Michigan before her Oregon visit overwhelmed her.
``The second I got there, I knew I wanted to go there, 100 percent,’’ Thompson said. ``Originally I just threw Oregon on my list of schools. When I got there everything just clicked for me. When I met the team it reminded me of my team here. They were as excited to have me there on campus as I was to be there.’’
As for giving up the college search after only two official visits, Thompson said the feeling she got on campus was unmistakable.
``After one day on campus, my mom sent me a text message from her hotel room that said, `I can’t see you anywhere but here,’ Thomspon recalled. ``I don’t think I could have felt as good anywhere else as I did at Oregon. If your heart is in one spot, it can’t be somewhere else. My heart is in Oregon.’’
While in Oregon, Thompson roomed with junior Nicole Blood, the former Saratoga Springs (N.Y.) superstar who won three Foot Locker Northeast Regional titles at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.
Thompson said she was especially pleased to interact with Lananna, a five-time NCAA Coach of the Year and an assistant coach with the 2004 U.S. Olympic team, and assistant coach Maurica Powell, who escorted Thompson through most of her visit.
``Every runner has to fill out a personal running log after every run, and he and Maurica go through every single person’s log and ready every single little note,’’ Thompson said. ``He was a down-to-earth guy. He wanted to show Oregon for what it was, he wasn’t trying to sell Oregon. He makes a lot of money and he’s really famous, but you could tell he cares about every single person.’’