By David Fong
COLUMBUS — Stephen Jones placing third in the 3,200 at the Division I state track and field meet Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium is probably enough to cement his legacy as one of the greatest distance runners in Troy High School history in the minds of many.
For Jones, however, success is measured in different ways.
“I hope I was able to have an impact on my teammates and my coaches both as an athlete and as a person — but I also hope my teammates and coaches realize how much of an impact they had on me,” Jones said moments after stepping off the podium with his third-place medal hanging around his neck. “It feels really good that maybe I was able to give back to this team.”
On the track, Jones gave all he had and more.
Competing against one of the deepest fields of any event at the state meet — state champion Andrew Jordan of Watkins Memorial broke the 9-minute mark and the state record by finishing in 8:54.96 — Jones finished in third with a time of 9:01.94, breaking his own school record by nearly eight seconds. He also turned in the ninth-fastest time in state history.
“This feels great — it’s definitely the redemption I was looking for,” said Jones, who was tripped by a fellow competitor during last year’s race and fell from being one of the front-runners to 13th place. “I do wish I was able to get under the 9-minute mark, but to jump up 10 places from last year and run one of the fastest times in state history feels pretty good.”
Jones stuck with Jordan for several laps early, before falling back as far as seventh place with one lap to go.
“I definitely wanted to stick with him early,” Jones said.”I was staring right at the back of his numbers. Then I realized I needed to run my own race and I couldn’t worry about him. He’s an outstanding runner. You’ve got to give it to him.”
After falling back to seventh place, Jones had an incredible kick in the final lap, moving all the way up to third place.
“At 300 (meters left to go), a lot of people started slowing down,” Jones said. “I think they wanted to started their kick at the 200 mark. That’s when I started trying to make my move and was able to make up most of the distance.”
For Jones, the end of his high school career seems almost surreal. He leaves holding nearly every school distance record and track and field and earned All-Ohio honors in cross country last fall. Jones will run at Mississippi State University.
“Honestly, I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” he said. “Graduation hasn’t even hit me yet, let alone the end of my career. I think graduation will probably hit me first, then the end of my career. I’m happy though. I think I had a pretty good career here at Troy.”
That much would seem to be set in stone.
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong
Troy’s Stephen Jones attempts to keep pace with Watkins Memorial’s Andrew Jordan during the boys 3,200 at the Division I state track meet Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
Troy’s Stephen Jones leads a pack of runners during the boys 3,200 at the Division I state track meet Saturday in Columbus.
Troy’s Stephen Jones eyes the competition during the boys 3,200 at the Division I state track meet Saturday in Columbus.
Troy Stephen Jones runs the boys 3,200 at the Division I state track meet Saturday in Columbus.