By Michael Kinney
When Elora Jones crossed the finish line Thursday, she was all by herself. In fact, the Yukon cross country runner was so far ahead of the rest of the competition at the Moore Lions Cross Country Invitational, she had time to get her medal and catch her breath before the next runner ran through the line.
However, while it was a dominant performance for Jones, she was not happy. Even though she is just 14-years-old, she has already figured out she needs to be pushed to get the best out of her.
“I think I did pretty good considering there was no one pushing me really,” Jones said. “It wasn’t my best time. (I like competition) because then I have someone to help push me through it all because I’m mainly just thinking I can’t let another person pass me, I have to get in front of them.”
During this freshman year of running cross country at Yukon, Jones said she hasn’t been pushed as much as she thought. Coming from the junior high ranks, she thought she would have to take her lumps before she could run with the upperclassmen.
That has not been the case so far.
“I thought there were going to be a bunch of seniors and juniors that we’re going to be pushing me through it,” Jones said. “But there are just maybe a few seniors that are there.”
Jones won the Moore Invitational with a time of 20:09. That is more than a minute off her personal record of 19:04. Yet, she was still more than 40 seconds ahead of second place, despite battling an injury.
“It’s something I don’t talk about a lot. Elora’s had a little bit of an injury, a little IT band issue that we’ve been working through,” Yukon coach Rodney Zimmerman said. “She’s been working hard trying to get through it. She’s having some good days and bad days but time wise, she’s racing really well and starting to drop time. Our problem has been making sure we’re at meets where she’s got somebody to run with consistently.”
While Jones has been surprised at her success, Zimmerman has not. He saw early on he was dealing with a different breed of competitor.
“Honestly with her, no, because I felt going up to a 5k was going to be really good for her, the kind of runner she is,” Zimmerman said. “I expected her to have a pretty good year. It’s just at that point it was, how good of a year is it going to be. I think she’s living up to the expectations and I think obviously talking to her, you know she’s a little shy of the expectations she has but she’s going to get there.”
For Jones, those expectations include making it to the postseason and earning a medal. The thought of winning a state title has also crept into her mind.
“I would feel just overwhelmed with excitement because again, it was hard work,” Jones said. “I would just probably go hug all of my teammates and my coaches because they would help push me with all the workouts and everything.”
Just as important is the example Jones is setting for the rest of the Millers on what it takes to win at the highest level.
“She loves running. She’s one of those girls I guarantee you during the off season, she’s out running. She’s not taking a break,” Zimmerman said. “She’s in good condition when we get together and can start practices. I think really, for her, that’s a big key and it’s what we’re going to work on with the rest of the team. We’ve got to be doing those things on our off time that we need to do to be there. Like I said, she does.”