Thomas Shilgalis: Running to glory


Shilgalis stands victorious following breaking the meet record at the 2017 Naperville North Twilight Invitational with a 3-mile time of 14:26.

Alana Cervera, Online Managing Editor, Sports Columnist

 Running cross country in seventh grade with his friends didn’t seem like a big deal to senior Thomas Shilgalis.

“I started running because all my friends were doing it,” Shilgalis said. “It allows me to expand my social life and maintain good health throughout the years.”

But Shilgalis soon found his talent on the trail and track.

Shilgalis, now a four-year varsity track and cross country runner, New Balance All American, all-state finalist, 800m record breaker and current record holder for the fastest 3-mile time in Naperville Central’s history, is finally taking time to reflect on his athletic career and looking forward to future plans.

Shilgalis started running at Kennedy Junior High and recognized his talent after only being on the team for one year.

“I was at the top of my class and one of the better kids in the conference, so I knew I was pretty good,” Shilgalis said.

He continued to run in high school and qualified for state in cross country and track freshman year, then did the same sophomore year and junior year, where he was all-state in the 1600 and All American in the 1600 as well.

“All-state was something I was shooting for since freshman year, and I haven’t been able to achieve that the past couple of seasons,” Shilgalis said. “It was a really cool experience.”

Despite Shilgalis’ difficult state meets and several injuries, he persevered to become a better athlete. He learned from his mistakes and has come back stronger than ever.

“Last year, I knew I was in really good shape, and I kind of forgot about the bad moments and moved forward,” Shilgalis said.

Shilgalis suffered from very tight muscles three weeks before his junior year cross country state meet. This injury affected his outer leg tendon and pulled his knee cap out of its normal range. This problem continued until he saw a physical therapist in order to recover.

“The lack of motivation to do the smaller things that make athletes great really took a toll for me, as I didn’t stretch, warm up and do other small things that I should have been doing,” Shilgalis said. “After that season, I never made that mistake again.”

Shilgalis shared the improvements he made in training.

“Later that school year track season came around and I was back to being healthy,” Shilgalis said. “Throughout the season I put a lot of effort into every component from my training routine, including proper warm ups, drills, workouts, lifting, stretching and much more.”

Head cross country coach Dave Ashton explains Shilgalis’ character.

“Thomas knows how he wants things,” Ashton said. “It’s a big aspect because it really helps him power through difficult times.”

Shilgalis learned from his injury and came out of his track season placing third in the state and later fifth in the nation in the 1600m race. He broke a school record in his 800m race with a time of 1:51. Additionally, during senior year cross country, he broke the 3-mile time record with 14:11.

With his success, he recently committed to the University of Michigan for cross country and track. He looks forward to pursuing a career in computer science engineering or electrical engineering.

Ashton comments on Shigalis’ uniqueness as an athlete and the level of success he’s reached in his high school career.

“At this point, he’s probably the most talented athlete I’ve ever coached,” Ashton said. “He really can run any event and any distance and be among the best in Naperville Central history.”

Senior Aaron Benson has known Shilgalis since his freshman year through cross country and is one of his closest friends.

“He’s one of the people that I feel super comfortable with,” Benson said. “He’s a really good leader and isn’t strict or anything. A lot of freshmen this year felt comfortable going up to him and talking to him with questions. It really makes the team feel like a family.”

Shilgalis anticipates competing in college and making his way toward more goals. He hopes to run a mile in less than four minutes and get a national ranking after high school.

“Mostly, I love running [because I can] escape school and feel free with [my] friends,” Shilgalis said. “It’s going to be cool to move onto the next level and compete with other collegiate athletes.”