SE: Jones in Elite Company Among K-State Track and Field Greats
Akela Jones just may go down in history as the all-time greatest female athlete at K-State.
She enters her final season with the Wildcats boasting two NCAA titles and two NCAA Field Athlete of the Year recognitions. She’s a three-time Big 12 Championship meet high scorer, a two-time Big 12 Outstanding Performer of the Year and two-time USTFCCCA Midwest Woman’s Field Athlete of the Year.
When it comes to performance in their field, Jones takes the cake. When it comes to pure, raw athletic ability, she’s simply unmatched. What she’s done in her almost two seasons with the Wildcats has been unheard of – until now.
“It’s been a phenomenal journey,” said Jones. “This year, at the NCAA Indoor Championship, I stamped my name as one of the greatest athletes in NCAA history. I have an NCAA record. It’s amazing.”
The 6-foot-2 senior from St. Michael, Barbados, earned her second-career national title on March 12, at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship with a high jump leap of 1.87m/6-01.50.
But prior to her high jump title, she competed in the pentathlon where she placed first in three (shot put, high jump and long jump) of the five events. Her pentathlon performance was highlighted with a personal best 1.96m/6-06.00 in the event’s high jump – a leap that marked an NCAA Indoor Championships meet record, a collegiate championship record, a Barbados national record and a K-State record. Her high jump performance in the pentathlon was just one centimeter shy of the indoor world record.
“It was really exciting,” said Jones of her record-breaking performance in the pentathlon’s high jump. “I still had more events to go, so I didn’t want to show the excitement, but when it was finished I was really proud of myself. I was close to the world pentathlon high jump record. I went in with no real goals, but came out with an NCAA record. I don’t go in to these events thinking about the records, but when you do get one it’s kind of fun.”
When it comes to breaking records, Jones has done so 13 times at K-State. She has smashed 2004 Olympic silver medalist Austra Skujyte’s pentathlon and heptathlon records, and, outside of those multi events, Jones owns the outdoor long jump and 100-meter hurdle records along with the indoor long jump and 60-meter hurdle records. Overall, her 13 school records are the most by any K-State track and field athlete in the history of the program.
“I’ve always dreamt of being in a hall of fame, so with what I’ve done so far, it’s an exciting thought,” continued Jones. “When you break records, it’s exciting because you know you’re one of the best. You’re one of the greatest athletes at K-State, and there’s been a lot of great athletes at K-State, so to be up there with them, with Olympic medalists, to be up at that level, it’s kind of mind blowing.”
While it has taken a lot of talent and hard work to get to where she’s at, Jones credits much of her recent success to the K-State track and field program.
“I was already a talented athlete, but I think being at K-State and being with coach Cliff Rovelto, I’ve learned how to work hard and I’ve been able to do unexpected things because of that hard work,” explained Jones. “K-State has helped me grow mentally, and, obviously, it’s helped me grow physically. Just being at K-State, being at these training facilities with these people, I’ve grown from a little girl who wanted to be a champion to actually competing for an Olympic Gold medal. I’ve grown a lot in the year and a half that I’ve been here.”
Though Jones has come a long way, her journey is far from over.
Jones enters the 2016 outdoor track and field season with high hopes. With two NCAA titles under her belt, if she does win another title this season, she will become the first female athlete in K-State history to win three national titles. She could join Scott Sellers (high jump, 2007-09) and Kenny Harrison (triple jump/high jump, 1986-88) as the only Wildcats in program history to win more than two national titles.
But it’s not just NCAA titles she’s eying – Jones has her sight set on the 2016 Rio Olympics as well.
With her recent performances in the high jump, Jones, who is currently among the world’s top athletes in the event, has already qualified to represent her home country in the 2016 Olympics.
“The Olympics, it is the biggest event of the year; I’ve always dreamt about it,” said Jones. “I was the first athlete this year to qualify for Barbados’ track team, and to be the first to stamp my name and say, ‘I’m on that team,’ it’s amazing. My mom is proud, my family is proud, Barbados is moving behind me. Everyone at home is behind me, lifting me up and cheering me on so that I can win an Olympic medal in my country – I could be the first female medalist from Barbados. Having a whole country supporting you, there’s no better feeling.”
There is no doubt Akela Jones has already forever etched her name in the K-State track and field record book. However, as she continues to grow as both an athlete and a person, her best just may be yet to come.
Up next for Jones and the K-State track and field team is a trip to Inglewood, California, Friday and Saturday, for the UCLA Legends Invitational. For more information on the Wildcats’ upcoming schedule, please click here.