MARQUETTE - Former professional long jumper David Thompson took a major leap in January of 2012 when he moved from Dubuque University in Iowa to State University of New York (SUNY) at Oswego.
It was his first time working outside the Midwest after attending North Central College in Illinois, competing professionally with a Nike-sponsored club out of Indianapolis, and coaching in Illinois and Iowa.
It was a jump he didn't originally intend to take. But SUNY Oswego athletic director Timothy Hale, a former track and field coach of 25 years, was able to change Thompson's mind.
"I turned the job down, because I wanted to stay in the Midwest. But in talking with him, I had a comfort level of where he wanted to see the track and field program go as an athletic director," Thompson said.
That comfort evaporated on Aug. 23 when Hale retired as AD. Thompson has thus begun his search to move closer to his family in Chicago and his recruiting base of Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.
Thompson, who interviewed Thursday in Marquette as the second of three finalists for the Northern Michigan University women's track and field head coaching vacancy, said he has found a similar level of comfort with first-year Wildcat AD Forrest Karr - a former goaltender for the Notre Dame hockey program.
"The thing I really feel impressed with in speaking with (Karr) is he feels that all sports are on an equal playing ground and an equal level," said Thompson, who has also had success recruiting athletes from Florida to Iowa.
"He wants all the sports here to be competitive. He wants everybody to be on equal playing field in terms of having the best possible advantages to compete in the conference."
Thompson, who specializes in sprints and jumps, has had success nationally both as a coach and athlete at the NCAA Division III level.
At Dubuque, he coached the 2011 men's indoor national champion in the 55-meter dash, whose time of 10.41 seconds would have made him an all-American at the Div. II level and an NCAA championships qualifier in Div. I.
In 2010, Dubuque finished the men's indoor season ranked No. 12 with three national qualifiers in the men's 55 and one in the women's 55.
Thompson finished that season with four indoor/outdoor all-Americans and eight national qualifiers in the sprints and jumps during the outdoor season.
As an athlete at North Central, Thompson was an 11-time All-American and three-time national champion in the long jump, 400 relay and 200 dash.
North Central College won the men's national championship in 1998 - the same year Thompson won the 400 relay and 200 - and his winning jump in 1997 was good enough to also win the Div. II title that season.
That's why he has no concerns about taking another leap in his career from Div. III to the scholarship level of Div. II.
"The numbers my athletes put up transcend just being in Division III," Thompson said. "The first thing I tell people is that, forget Division I, II or III.
"If you're talented and doing the right things, it's about putting numbers and doing the right things to reach your potential. Don't worry about what level you're at."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.