Spending time with her child is one of Lindsey Thomsen's favorite activities these days. In fact, she has a tough time leaving her son, Hunter, behind when she travels the country to compete with the BYU women's cross country and track teams.
So rather than go through that suffering all the time, Thomsen takes Hunter with her to most of the meets she goes to. She and Hunter fly with the team and are met by Thomsen's parents, Reid and Hazel Argyle, who take Hunter while Thomsen stays with the team.
That's why you'll see Thomsen walking with her teammates through the airport with her bags on one arm as she pushes Hunter along in his stroller with the other arm. It's just another day in the life of this mother/student-athlete.
Thomsen did not expect her BYU career when she became pregnant with Hunter in January 1999. There was a time when she didn't even think a career at BYU was even an option for her.
Until her senior year, Thomsen's high school career had been successful but relatively unremarkable. She had run well in state competition for Springville High School in Springville, Utah, but was yet to capture a state title in cross country or track.
But her performances in high school had caught the attention of nearly every college program in Utah except BYU. She was considering offers from several schools, including Utah, Weber State and Southern Utah, but wasn't even sure she wanted to go to college.
A self-described "mama's girl," the only thing Thomsen was sure about was that she wanted to stay close to home. Her senior year, while running at American Fork High School in American Fork, Utah, was the first time BYU women's cross country coach Patrick Shane contacted Thomsen about running for the Cougars.
In 1996, Thomsen won the 5A state cross country championship, breaking former BYU All-American Elizabeth Jackson's record for the course. Shortly after winning the state title, Coach Shane came to Thomsen's home with a scholarship offer to join the BYU program.
During that meeting, Thomsen said she pretty much decided that BYU was going to be the program for her. A short time later, she called Coach Shane to tell him she would be joining the BYU team.
The decision for Thomsen came down to which program would help her improve the most as a runner. "I knew I would get so much better here than I would in any of the other Utah programs," Thomsen said.
So Thomsen joined a BYU squad that was one of the nation's elite programs. She came to the team uncertain about how much of a contribution she could make to the program. "I knew I wouldn't come here and be one of their best runners," she said. "I didn't even know if I would ever make the top seven."
The '97 cross country season saw the Cougars win their first national championship in cross country but Thomsen had to sit out the season. She suffered from bursitis in her hip and was forced to medically redshirt the season. The injury forced her to miss the '98 track and field season as well.
In April '98, at the conclusion of her first year at BYU, Lindsey married her boyfriend of three years, Brian Thomsen. The couple met when she was sixteen and still living in Springville.
Lindsey Thomsen came into the '98 cross country season hoping to have a chance to contribute to the team. However, she continued to be hampered by bursitis in her hip during the season and was limited to only two races.
During one of her many trips to the doctor to receive treatment for the bursitis, a comment made by one of the doctors irritated Thomsen. "The doctor said 'Just get pregnant and that will take care of it because you'll have to take time off,' " Thomsen said.
The doctor's suggestion bothered Thomsen but shortly after, in January '99, she became pregnant with her son Hunter. She told Coach Shane about the pregnancy in February and then left the program.
When she left the program, Thomsen did not expect to come back to BYU. She planned to be an at-home mother, staying home to begin raising her family. Though she continued to offer support for the program by attending meets occasionally, Thomsen did not speak to Coach Shane again until April 2000.
A love for the competitive aspect of running led Thomsen to approach Coach Shane although she still didn't plan to return to the program. "I wasn't ever planning on coming back," she said. "I only spoke to Coach Shane to see if I could train with the team to get in shape for some road races I wanted to run in."
The time she spent away from the program for the pregnancy had caused Thomsen to doubt her ability to compete on the same level ever again. "I didn't think I could ever be good again," she said. "I never thought I could get back in that kind of shape."
But Coach Shane saw in Thomsen the potential she could not see at the time. He encouraged her to come back to BYU and offered to give her back her scholarship. But the most important thing he offered was a belief in her ability to compete on a collegiate level.
Despite her doubts, Thomsen knew Coach Shane was not just building her up and she began to consider a return to the team. But she was a mother now and if she was going to rejoin the team, Hunter would have to be taken care of throughout the day.
So Thomsen approached her parents, Reid and Hazel Argyle, about the possibility of tending Hunter while she trained and went to class. "It worked out that my parents could take him all the time," Thomsen says. "They tend him every day from 8 to 5 when I'm in season."
With her parents looking after Hunter and her husband Brian offering his support for her decision as well, Thomsen rejoined the team for the 2000 cross country season. But she still wasn't sure how much of a factor she'd be for the team. "I just thought I would be lucky to make our top seven," Thomsen said.
She had been told by some during her pregnancy that women who had gone through pregnancy actually become better runners as a result. While she doubted the idea at the time, in her case it may have been correct.
In her first race back she showed her improvement, finishing second to BYU teammate and All-American Sharolyn Shields-Thayer at the BYU Triple Crown. She competed in five races during the 2000 season and was the top BYU finisher in three of those five races.
Her biggest accomplishment of the season came when she led the Cougars to their second consecutive Mountain West Conference championship by winning the individual title. She was named Mountain West Conference Women's Cross Country Athlete of the Year for the 2000 season.
That accomplishment is even more miraculous when you consider that Thomsen was not able to get the rest her body needed throughout the cross country season. At the beginning of the season, her son Hunter became sick and was not able to sleep much at night all season long. "He was getting 3-4 hours of sleep each night and even that was broken up," Thomsen recalls.
Looking back on the 2000 cross country season Thomsen is still not sure how she was able to compete at a high level while getting very little rest. "I just put all my faith in God," Thomsen said.
Her role as a mother is not taken lightly by Thomsen. She places that responsibility not only above running but also ahead of studying. "I have to be a mom before I can be a student," Thomsen says. "If Hunter wants to play and not go to bed until ten then I only have an hour or two to do homework."
Coming into the 2001 cross country season, one prize continues to elude Thomsen. Though she earned an All-America citation for the 10,000 meter at the 2001 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Thomsen is still yet to earn All-America honors for cross country.
She hopes to achieve that goal in the 2001 NCAA Cross Country Championships. But for now, just coming back has allowed Thomsen to put her mind at ease somewhat. "I always would have wondered 'What if?' if I hadn't come back after being pregnant," Thomsen said.
Getting an All-America citation would be nice, but Thomsen and the entire team will have one thought in the back of their minds all season. The 2001 NCAA Cross Country Championships will be held in Greensville, South Carolina, the same course the Cougars ran on to win their first national championship in 1997.
On Saturday, Sept. 15, Thomsen will be racing in Provo in the Autumn Classic. She also hopes to compete in the Nov. 10 NCAA Regionals which will also be contested in Provo.