In addition to being a first-time Olympian, Gabby Thomas is also currently studying epidemiology at the University of Texas

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Gabby Thomas
Gabby Thomas
| Credit: Steph Chambers/Getty

Gabby Thomas excels not only on the track, but in the classroom as well.

Thomas, 24, is a first-time Olympian who came into Tokyo having run the second-fastest 200m sprint in history — a 21.61-second run — during the Team USA track and field Olympic trials. During her qualifying event for the 200m in Japan on Monday, she ran a 22.20.

When she's not on the track, Thomas is an accomplished student. She studied neurobiology and global health at Harvard University and is now in graduate school at the University of Texas, studying epidemiology — a fitting topic amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

Though both challenging in their own rights, Thomas doesn't hesitate to rank the challenges: "Making that Olympic team was harder. It's not a question."

Thomas tells PEOPLE, "The U.S trials, across the sprints for sure, but I'm sure other events as well, is just the hardest team to make in the world."

Gabby Thomas
Credit: Cliff Hawkins/Getty

"A lot of those races are probably just harder than some of the Olympic races. Some of them are the fastest races in history," she adds. "I remember just being there for two weeks and that was just the toughest time period of my life to date, mentally. I wasn't sleeping, I wasn't eating. I was just so in this zone and constantly on this adrenaline rush, and it was tough."

Gabby Thomas
Gabby Thomas
| Credit: Steph Chambers/Getty

Thomas — who will compete in the 200m final later on Sunday — is hoping that all of America notices that Olympic endurance, and tunes into the Games as she competes.

"I want to make sure that all the Black athletes who are competing across every sport, every event are also getting the support," Thomas tells PEOPLE. "And if that's not necessarily turning on your cable to watching the Olympics on the network, NBC, that's fine by me. But support the Black athletes that are competing."

She adds, "And I think that's pretty special because there are so many of us."

To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.