With the spring sports season canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Gahanna Lincoln senior Alexis Thigpen has spent much of her focus the past few weeks on her future in track and field.

What she calls keeping her "head up" through the ups and downs is something she learned long ago from her father, Justus Thigpen Jr.

A native of Michigan, Thigpen Jr. played basketball at Iowa State, averaging 17.5 points as a senior in the 1992-93 season as the Cyclones made their second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. He went on to play professionally in the Continental Basketball Association and overseas.

Alexis' grandfather, Justus Thigpen Sr., played basketball for Weber State and went on to play one season in the American Basketball Association and two seasons in the NBA.

"(My father has) been a big influence," Alexis Thigpen said. "He was always one to tell me about the mind over matter (phrase) and never wanted me to be psychologically negative. I'm just trying to look forward to the other things later on."

When it came to athletics, Thigpen didn't follow the path taken by her father and grandfather.

"I actually was supposed to play basketball just like him because he grew up around that and he was always there to help," she said. "I've always had him there and I appreciated that, but track kind of came and took over and he was supportive of it. I didn't think he'd love the idea so much because he wanted a basketball kid, but he was actually very supportive of it. He still works out with me and keeps in shape."

Thigpen, who has committed to compete in track at Ball State, concluded a prep career in which she reached the awards podium at the Division I state outdoor meet six times.

Her final high school competition was the state indoor meet March 7 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva. She finished third in the 400 meters (57.34 seconds), joined junior Joi Bradley, sophomore M'Kaia Trent and freshman Amryne Chilton on the championship 1,600 relay (3:58.8) and joined freshman Ayannah Stafford, senior Shaina Rutledge and Bradley on the runner-up 800 relay (1:42.19) as the Lions earned the team championship.

"She has turned into a great leader and her dedication to the sport is phenomenal," coach Roger Whittaker said of Thigpen. "She's a great kid who I came across as a freshman and who really bought into the program and my vision."

In Thigpen's first state outdoor meet as a freshman in 2017, she ran on the winning 1,600 relay (3:46.74) and the third-place 800 relay (1:39.74) and finished 13th in the 400 (58.13).

As a sophomore, Thigpen was on the winning 1,600 relay (3:47.99) and the 10th-place 800 relay (1:42.83) and finished 11th in the 400 (57.51).

Last spring as a junior, she ran the opening leg of both the winning 1,600 relay (3:46.2) and the runner-up 3,200 relay (8:55.9), ran the second leg of the sixth-place 800 relay (1:42.14) and finished 13th in the 400 (58.33).

Gahanna won the state outdoor team title in 2018 and finished third last season.

"Winning state for the first time being on the team was special to me," Thigpen said. "Being on the (3,200 relay) and getting to know more of the distance girls was a turning point. I have so many memories, like getting to know the amazing girls on the team and getting close to them."

Thigpen has spent her spring running through her neighborhood as well as on local tracks to keep in shape with an eye on focusing on middle distance races such as the 400 and 800 when she begins competing for Ball State.

Thigpen, who is considering studying psychology, isn't planning to let any mental barriers get in her way.

"I know it's my senior year and I lost my last season of high school, but I still have my college season to look forward to," she said. "I believe the mind really controls how you perform. There's been times like at state last year where it was completely raining and our division kept getting postponed until a later time and our coach told us to not let it affect our game. We didn't let it affect us and we performed very well. I used to have trouble in my thoughts and that would affect how I ran, but it got better and I've learned how to relax and not let the negative thoughts push me in a bad corner."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek