Keller Timber Creek volleyball player Anna Thomas is No. 16 on the court, but she’s No. 1 in the classroom.
The junior libero is currently ranked atop her class, on pace to be valedictorian in 2019.
“Her freshman year, I knew she was a fantastic volleyball player,” Timber Creek coach Erin Wood said. “She was put up to the JV team as a defensive specialist. I remember doing our first grade check, and she had 100s in all of her classes. That’s really difficult to do, to make a 100 in classes like Pre-AP English and pre-AP Math. Right away, I knew she was something special academically as well as what I had already seen on the court.”
Wood says it’s easy to see how Thomas’ classroom smarts translate onto the court.
“I would say of all the players I’ve had so far, she’s my best reader — that she can read the offense coming at her so she’s in the right spot before it happens,” Wood said. “She’s really good in huddles, in timeouts and after games about what we saw and what we can do differently. She’s very good about spotting what’s open and that kind of thing.”
Thomas knows being good at math or history doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be a smart volleyball player, but does see a connection.
“It’s a different thing to have a high volleyball IQ,” she said. “But it does help to be able to multitask and think ahead and think quickly on the court.”
It works the other way, too. Thomas isn’t just competing on the volleyball court. She’s competing to maintain her class rank.
Anytime I do something that may not be the smartest choice, they kind of tease me because I’m supposed to be No. 1.
Anna Thomas on being ranked first in her class
“It always feels like there’s someone chasing me,” she said. “I know the No. 2 in our class is right behind me. At any point she could come and take my spot.”
Being top of the class does have at least one drawback, according to Thomas. People tend to expect perfection.
“Anytime I do something that may not be the smartest choice, they kind of tease me because I’m supposed to be No. 1,” she joked.
Thomas has always excelled in school — and it runs in the family. Her sister, Allison, was salutatorian at Timber Creek in 2013. Anna also credits Allison with igniting her interest in volleyball; the two would play together in the backyard. In eighth grade, Anna began playing high school and club ball. So far, it hasn’t interfered too much with her academic pursuits.
“It didn’t really start affecting me until sophomore year,” Thomas said. “I had to start learning how to balance school, volleyball and club volleyball. Whenever I know I’ll be missing school, I’ll get my work from teachers beforehand so I can do them on the bus, or when I get home or between games.”