10/24/13 — Jones eyes 3rd straight state title

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Jones eyes 3rd straight state title

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on October 24, 2013 11:00 AM

PLEASANT GARDEN -- Connor Jones has it figured out except for the ending.

He'll be a bundle of nerves until the starter's gun sounds.

Once the Wayne Christian senior settles into a groove on the trail, every nerve in his body will fire in unison as he runs in the final meet of what has undoubtedly been a phenomenal high school career.

Jones hopes the 5k trek ends with another gold medal draped around his neck, signifying he's claimed an unprecedented third consecutive N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A state cross country title.

He starts his final quest Friday at 1:40 p.m. at Hagan Stone Park.

"Most of the people who are running at states, I have run against this year and I know most of what the competition will be," Jones said. "Until the whistle blows, I'll be nervous and think about all of the strategies. Once the whistle blows, I'm just going to run and not think about this is it.

"It won't hit me 'this is your last time' until the meet is over. It's my last chance, pretty significant."

Significant, indeed.

A victory completes the final chapter for Jones, who will emerge as the first-ever, three-time state champion in any sport in Wayne Christian history.

And the confident teenager will also become the first Wayne County athlete to win three cross country state crowns on either the public or independent school level.

Jones played soccer in the fall, which detracted from his normal running schedule. He encountered the normal bumps and bruises that go along with the physicality of the game, but didn't sustain any major injuries that forced him to sit out any length time.

Four-mile runs during the week, one day of speed training and extended weekend runs have been the norm for Jones since soccer season ended more than two weeks ago. He's averaged 20-plus miles per week and spent part of it running his most-favorite course -- Waynesborough Park.

The addition of plyometrics has helped strengthen Jones' legs and improved his pace in preparation for the state meet.

"I've started to get faster again, so that's been a big part of my training," Jones said. "I've been doing some extra miles so I feel confident that I've trained as much as I could leading up to the race. I think I've been able to get back to form before states.

"I want to go out with a bang."

And put those pre-race nerves to rest one final time.