The day before North Hall junior Andrew Jones was set to compete as the favorite to win the 2019 Class 3A state cross country meet, he decided to consult an old teammate with relevant experience.
Jones texted last year’s 3A champion — North Hall graduate Devan Crow — asking for any last minute advice on how to handle race day nerves.
“He just told me once the gun went off, it would be fine,” Jones said. “Just run your race. I knew all the training I had put in, so I was definitely confident.”
Jones’ confidence was warranted.
After taking the first mile slow, Jones burst ahead of second-place finisher Avery Jaynes down the stretch in Carrollton, overtaking him to finish with a time of 16 minutes, 18 seconds and bringing the individual state championship to North Hall for the second straight year.
Jones had already beaten Jaynes on three occasions earlier in the season, so the result was not surprising to him or any of the other competitors, but winning the event was still a special moment.
“I was just really happy I finally won state,” he said. “I worked really hard for it.”
Jones had been training for that moment since he first joined a running club in elementary school. He liked how much distance running allowed him to push himself, and he was naturally good at it, too.
By the time he got to middle school, Jones was ready to start his cross country career, and so far he hasn’t regretted a moment of it.
“I just really love finding new ways and new training to get better,” he said. “I love the people in the sport too, and have a lot of friends all over the state.”
The standards and expectations of the North Hall cross country team have also played a major role in Jones’ drive and dedication to the sport.
The Trojans have now had the top runner at the state meet for three consecutive years, and have placed at least one competitor in the top four going back 10 seasons. Runners like Crow, Corson Teasley and Quintin Miles set a high bar for Jones and his teammates, and they responded with a fourth-place team finish.
Jones’ first overall effort was obviously the team’s biggest contribution.
“I was definitely motivated to keep the tradition going,” he said. “I guess that put an extra fire in me and made me train harder to make sure I won. I wanted to keep doing like Devan did and other teammates from other years.”
Already a state champion as a junior, Jones still has plenty left on his list of goals. Most immediately, he plans to qualify for the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championship with a top 10 finish at the Foot Locker Cross Country South Regional on Nov. 30 in Charlotte, N.C.
It’s a high bar to set, but Jones hopes his success at the state level is merely foreshadowing future wins at the national level. The state meet is less than a week in the past, but Jones has already turned his focus to bigger and better races and accomplishments.
It all starts at the end of this month in Charlotte.
“It’s the biggest race in all of high school running,” Jones said of the opportunity. “If you get top 10, you go to nationals, and every college is looking at you by then. It’s the biggest race you can get to.”