Thursday, October 24, 2013

Aretha Thurmond announces retirement from the sport and starts new career at USA Track & Field...

What began as a shout out by her mother Susan Hill on her Facebook page on October 15th ended up as an announcement that University of Washington hall of famer Aretha Thurmond (left/photo by Paul Merca) has officially retired from the sport.

Thurmond laughed when I brought that up to her in a telephone conversation from her new home of Indianapolis, where she now works in the international teams department of USA Track & Field.

"I guess you could say that my mom let the cat out of the bag with that post," said Thurmond.

When asked what made the 37-year old decide to call it a career as one of the country's most consistent discus throwers, she said that it began when her long time coach, Jerry Clayton, was considering leaving Auburn University to go elsewhere.

She said that over the last few years, several schools had approached Clayton about coaching at their university, but he opted to stay at Auburn, until the University of Michigan hired the Midwest native to become its next men's head track & field coach in July.

"At this stage in my career I thought that it wouldn't be in the best interest to change coaches if he were to leave Auburn," she said.

After legendary throws coach Ken Shannon retired from coaching following the 2000 Olympiad at the University of Washington, Thurmond moved to Alabama to work with Clayton, regarded by many in the national track and field scene as one of the country's premier throws coaches.

The Renton HS graduate said that before Clayton's decision to accept the Michigan job, it was her intent to compete until 2016.

When asked to reflect upon her competitive career, which included making four US Olympic teams, five world championship teams, winning four USA national titles, two Pan Am Games gold medals, and being named captain of a USA world championships team and the 2012 Olympic team, she said, "Quite honestly, I haven't had time to reflect upon the highs and lows of my career. My hiring at USA Track & Field all happened within a two-week window and it's all very fresh to me the concept of being retired."

"At some point, when things slow down maybe I will have time to reflect upon my career."

She revealed that her husband, former University of Washington throws coach Reedus Thurmond, has recently accepted a position as a throws coach in Qatar.  Her young son Theo will finish the fall semester in Alabama before making the move to Indianapolis.  In the meantime, Aretha said that the first week at her new job has involved acquainting herself with the USATF staff, and trying to figure out a place to live in the Indianapolis area.

In Thurmond's new role working with national teams at USA Track & Field, she will assist athletes and staff of various teams with logistics, uniforms, travel, and team sign ups at various national championship meets, an opportunity that will allow her to stay close to the sport.

She said that her experience working in retail at Lady Foot Locker and Home Depot as part of the Olympic Jobs program, along with her one year working for the Tyee Club at the University of Washington, plus her competitive experience on numerous USA national teams, and volunteer work with USA Track & Field in various capacities, including athletes advisory, and serving on the Board of Directors, will prepare her well for her new position.

This summer, Thurmond traveled with Team USA to the IAAF world track & field championships in Moscow as an athletes' advisory representative and as a member of USATF's Board of Directors.

With her hiring as a staff member, Thurmond resigned her position on the board.

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