Jones Nabs NCAA Title, Breaks School Record

EUGENE, Ore. -- Akela Jones registered a performance of historic proportions, notching K-State Track and Field's first individual national title by a women's athlete since 2011 in the heptathlon and breaking the school record in the process. Tallying a gaudy 6,371 points, Jones broke Austra Skujyte's school record of 6,275 points set in 2002, as well as became the sixth Wildcat women's athlete ever to win an NCAA title outdoors.

Her record-setting performance came thanks to personal best showings in all but one of the heptathlon's seven events. Jones dominated competition, leading the field for the remainder of the multi following the high jump on day one. She set one school record, three top-10 program heptathlon marks, as well as marked the second-best wind-assisted long jump mark in school history.

Entering the meet ranked No. 4 in the country, Jones, in only her second heptathlon of her career, bested the top-three heptathletes in the country, as well as reigning champion Kendell Williams of Georgia by 149 points for the victory.

Jones said she was elated to come out on top of a loaded field after leading following day one of competition.

"I went out there with just the focus of maintaining what I did yesterday. Yesterday, I had a fantastic day. I wanted to come out here and stay focused throughout the day," Jones said. "Not just focus on the long jump and what I am good in; I wanted to focus on other events this weekend. I did that and came out victorious."

The junior from Oklahoma Baptist battled all throughout her second day of competing for much of the afternoon with her left leg wrapped in athletic tape. She entered day two with a 219-point lead thanks to a collegiate record-setting day one score of 4,023 points and picked up right where she left off, taking first in the long jump. Jones leapt an all conditions season-best 6.53m/21-05.25w (3.3) on her first attempt to further pad her lead to 251 points. Though not wind-legal, Jones' mark was still impressive, as it was the farthest distance leapt by a Wildcat outdoors in all conditions since Queeneth Evurunobi marked 6.54m/21-05.50 in 2004.

Shifting to the javelin, an event she had only competed in two times in her collegiate career prior to today's competition, Jones marked a PR of 38.13m/125-01 to all but secure the title. The mark was a personal best for Jones by nearly 12 feet, as she pushed her lead to a near-insurmountable 239 points with only the 800-meter to go.

Within striking distance of the collegiate record of 6,440 points set by Brianne Theisen-Eaton in 2012, Jones needed to clock 2:24.00 or better to make history. She would come close, but ultimately miss the collegiate record by a mere 69 points, battling grueling 80-plus degree heat to clock 2:29.43. Despite just missing out, Jones' performance was still unprecedented as her final score of 6,371 points was the fourth-best in NCAA history when including old javelin scores prior to 1999.

Jones said she was bummed about missing out on the record, but knows coming so close only bodes well for the future.

"I'm always trying to break some record, create some history. That's what I do. I want to leave a legacy. That's all I come to do when I step on the track. That time [in the 800m] was out of the reach today, but it will definitely be in reach sometime in the future."

Head coach Cliff Rovelto had strong praise for Jones, the first Wildcat women's athlete to win a national title since Ryann Krais also took home the heptathlon title in 2011.

"Akela had a heptathlon PR and overall PRs in all but the 800m -- first and second day score PRs as well. For an athlete to do what she did in literally her second heptathlon in her life is very special stuff," Rovelto said. "We have had four NCAA champions in the heptathlon and all of them were special. But this performance was the highest score and to the best of my knowledge, unprecedented in the history of the event. From my perspective as a coach, it's great because I know how much room there is for growth. My challenge and obligation is to get that all out of her. I don't know about her, but I'm looking forward to getting back to work."

Jones added that Rovelto has played a major role in her success to date -- pushing her to compete in an event that she originally thought she couldn't be competitive in.

"I originally couldn't do a multi-heptathlon," Jones said. "[Rovelto] is an awesome coach. He's a legend. With him, and with my ability and my talent, it's just like a dynamic duo. Moving forward, we have bigger goals ahead, with Worlds and Pan-Am Games, becoming a professional. We're taking everything easy right now, but we have bigger goals."

What's Next?

The K-State women continue action today with Dani Winters taking to the field in the shot put and Tia' Gamble, A'Keyla Mitchell and the women's 4x400-meter relay squad all running in semifinals on the track. Updates on the all of the rest of the evening's action for K-State can be found on Twitter via @kstate_gameday under #KStateTF.


NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships (Day II)
Hayward Field
Eugene, Oregon

Heptathlon
1: Akela Jones, 6,371 pts. -- Personal best & school record
100H: 13.10 (0.9) -- 1,109 pts. -- Personal best, school & school heptathlon record
HJ: 1.84m/6-00.50 -- 1,029 pts. -- 2nd-best in school heptathlon history
SP: 14.85m/48-08.75 -- 851 pts. -- 2nd-best in school heptathlon history
200m: 23.45w (3.2) -- 1,034 pts.
LJ: 6.53m/21-05.25w (3.3) -- 1,017 pts. -- 2nd-best wind-aided mark in school history
JT: 38.13m/125-01 -- 631 pts. -- 5th-best in school heptathlon history
800M: 2:29.43 -- 700 pts.