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The Daily Citizen

Black History in White County

 

Meet of the Elite: Searcy’s Whitney Jones takes on the best of Class AAAAA today

 
 

As just a sophomore, Whitney Jones has already torn through the track record book at Searcy High. Today, she’ll compete in five events at the Class AAAAA state track meet in Cabot. (Greg Benenati)

Whitney Jones took to the track at Lions Stadium on Tuesday in preparation for today’s Class AAAAA state track-and-field meet, she ran at a steady pace.

There was no one behind her, pushing or bumping her, making her run just that much harder.

That will hardly be the case when Jones joins the best of Class AAAAA and tries to sweep all five events in which she is entered.

Jones has accomplished some amazing feats this season. None, however, is as impressive as her qualifying for the state in five events as a sophomore. She will compete today in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dash, along with the long jump and triple jump.

“As a sophomore, I knew I had a good chance of making (state),” Jones said. “From looking at my times from last year and comparing them to my times this year, I’m doing better.”

In fact, Jones said she’s dropped an entire second off her time in the 200 this year. Jones credits her vast improvement to speed and strength training.

“I lift a lot of weights,” she said.

Jones’ speed training includes the use of an elastic band that she ties to the goal post at Lions Stadium. She then wraps the band around her waist, using the band as a resistance as she runs. Jones said the mechanism helped her shave two-tenths of a second off her time in her track events in one week.

Jones said she likes her chances of winning all five events in the state meet. Searcy head track-and-field coach Charlie Carroll said achieving such a feat would be even more amazing than anything Jones has accomplished this year.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to sweep all five events,” Carroll said. “I don’t think anyone’s going to do that at any state meet.”

Jones’ strongest competition in the track events could come from Camden’s Karen Thomas, who has pushed Jones in two indoor meets this year.

In the first indoor event in January, Jones beat Thomas in the 55-meter dash and long jump. She returned in February to beat Thomas once again, this time in the triple jump and 400.

Those wins could prove to be a confidence booster for Jones come later today.

“I’ve got a good chance of winning all my events,” Jones said, “if I go out there and do what I know I can do.”

If she can’t pull off the sweep, Jones said her best chances for victory come in the track events. The key, she added, would be to get off to a fast start.

“The one who usually gets out the fastest,” Jones said, “usually maintains that speed. I’ve just got to run. I don’t want to concentrate too hard. I know I ran fast times before. I just need to do it again.”

Carroll predicted that for Jones to win the 400, she would have to run the race in close to 59 seconds. The Searcy coach said one factor in Jones’ favor is that she will be able to relax.

“That’s one thing that will help her is that the state meet is long,” he said. “She’ll have time to rest between events, and recover from race to race. The one disadvantage is that she’ll be running against kids who run in one event.”

Jones agreed that the longer state meet will help her.

“I’ll need all the rest I can get,” she said. “It’ll give me time to get fluids into my body.”

For her field events, Jones also will need to get off to a fast start. She added that winning the long jump will depend on where she begins her leap.

“If you don’t hit the board,” she said, “you end up scratching (going over the foul line). If you jump behind the line, you’re short.”

Her biggest challenge will come in the triple jump. Jones said winning the event may come down to the second phase, the bound — an area in which Jones admitted she needs work.

“I’m working on a 14-foot hop in the first phase,” she said. “In the second phase, my bound isn’t very good. I need to get stronger and work on my technique.”

Carroll said Jones should have a solid day today — and it’s all in her blood.

“She’s got good genes from her mom and dad,” Carroll said. “Her family’s a hard-working family. They’re full-blown workers.

“Whitney flat-out gets after it,” Carroll added. “She’s an exceptional athlete.”

Jones will be joined in the meet by Searcy teammate Rachael Maina, who will compete in the 800-meter run.

Carroll said Maina finished the event in 2 minutes, 50 seconds at the AAAAA-East Conference meet — about 20 seconds behind the front runners.

Carroll said he hopes Maina, who also plays soccer for Searcy, finishes the 800-meter run in the top 10.

“When she runs in soccer,” Carroll said, “it’s more of a jig-jaggedy run. It’s more of a start-stop type of running. Soccer doesn’t train her to run the 800.

“Rachael’s in shape, don’t get me wrong,” Carroll added. “But most of the girls she’ll be running against have been training just for that event.”