Around the world in under four minutes Coach, professor breaks 4:00 barrier in mile

Usain Bolt may have demolished world records this summer, but OC’s own Mark Thompson was breaking records of his own.

Mark, a science professor and cross country coach at Oklahoma Christian, spent his summer setting personal bests in the mile and 3,000 meters, highlighted by his first sub four-minute mile.

Mark ran his sub-four mile in Braschaat, Belgium, with a personal-best time of 3:59.29 seconds. Both of his 3,000-meter performances were also personal bests of 7:59.

“The four minute mile is everything,” Mark said. “I really struggled through college and had some really high hopes, but got injured a lot and actually quit before I was finished running in college. I came back a couple of years later knowing the mile is my race, the one that I really enjoyed running, and knowing that I felt like I should run under four minutes.”

Going under four minutes is an accomplishment that Mark kept his eyes on ever since his return to running. He runs close to 50 miles a week, and knows the commitment and dedication it takes to compete at a high level.

“Never at any point have I felt like I could hang up the shoes, so to speak, or retire until I’d gotten that,” Mark said. “Having accomplished that objective, I’m not saying I’m going to retire, but I feel like at any time I can say, ‘Alright, it’s been a fun run, but now I’m comfortable leaving it where it’s at.”

Mark ran track and field at one of the NCAA’s elite programs, the University of Arkansas. His experience there, and running professionally, has given Mark credibility with the athletes he coaches.

“It increases the level of respect they have for me,” Mark said. “There are a lot different ways to reach certain goals. I’ve been down a lot of paths that have left me injured or frustrated, so I’ve kind of figured out through trial and error some other methods of training. Just the full experience of it allows me to empathize a little bit with what they’re going through.”

In addition to serving as OC’s head cross country coach and an assistant with the track program, Mark is an assistant professor at Oklahoma Christian. He teaches Physics I and II, Astronomy, Physical Science and several other science courses.

“There are people who are afraid of science and afraid of math for whatever reason,” Mark said. “I just enjoy being able to take a student like that and teaching them how to not be afraid of science and where they can kind of see science in everyday life.”

Mark came to OC to teach in the classroom, but once he started coaching, he saw the similarities between the two roles.

“I really love it,” Mark said. “You want to take a person and teach them how to succeed and how to believe in themselves and how to maximize the potential they have.”

Though he went to Arkansas, Mark has deep family ties at Oklahoma Christian. His wife, Darci (Grisso 00), is OC’s Director of Admissions. His mother, Kathy, chairs OC’s Department of Music. Mark grew up around OC and has countless other friends and family members who attended school here.

“OC has given me the opportunity to grow personally and professionally since I moved from Arkansas,” Mark said. “There is a closeness and genuineness in the OC community that I don’t see elsewhere. The end result is a college graduate with a higher self worth and a calling to contribute to the community and the church in a positive way.”

By Matt Stephens (10)