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Akela’s leap to Kansas

Justin Marville

Akela’s leap to Kansas

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Apparently, the national record isn’t Akela Jones’ longest jump.
Try Oklahoma to Kansas.
The whirlwind season that put her in the country’s history books has now landed Jones at Kansas State University in the United States, as the star 19-year-old multi-event athlete completed a transfer from Oklahoma Baptist University to the major NCAA Division I school.
Jones made the announcement after returning home a couple days ago following last week’s record-breaking leap of 6.55 metres in the long jump.
“Well, I originally wanted to go there straight out of high school but it didn’t work out so I had to go about it the long way,” said Jones, who was originally accepted to the Wildcat programme a year ago.
“Then I got [to Oklahoma Baptist] a semester late so I was just trying to gain as many credits as possible to transfer to Kansas State because that is where I always wanted to be.
“And I was very specific about where I was going when I was first choosing colleges, and I knew I wanted to go there because they have the right coaches, the right training facilities for me to take it to the next level by not only 2016, but for the rest of my career,” she added.
As tall as she is talented, the gifted six-footer joins a historically rich programme that has produced eight Olympic medallists – most recently 2012 high jump silver medallist Erik Kynard – under former United States head coach at the 2011 Pan American Games, Cliff Rovelto.
Not that Jones will be the only one standing to gain from the marriage.
The Wildcats are certain to be adding another future Olympian who just came off a miraculous season where she vaulted to the top of the world juniors list with her record-setting leap at the NAIA Outdoor Championships in Alabama.
“I had that jump in me for a long time but I finally got a great run up and by the grace of God I got a lucky jump on that day,” Jones said.
This was but a month after she copped the Austin Sealy Award for her gold medal performances in the long jump, high jump and 100 metre hurdles at the CARIFTA Games – giving her an all-time Bajan record of eight gold medals at that meet.
“The seasons started out a bit easier than I thought then get tougher along the way as I started to get some injuries that led me to have to strategise with my coaches about what focus I would put on which events,” Jones revealed.
Now her talents are set to take her further around the world as the former Springer Memorial queen has qualified for every major meet this season, including the Commonwealth Games, World Juniors, Central American and Caribbean Juniors, as well as the Central American and Caribbean Games.
But for now the focus is on World Juniors, with Jones yet to meet the standard in the heptathlon despite qualifying in the long jump, high jump and 100 metre hurdles.
“I don’t know the points I need to get to qualify for the heptathlon but then again I never look at the qualifying mark . . . . I go out there and give of my best and whatever happens I live with,” said Jones.
“I am not sure as yet about competing at the Commonwealth Games and CAC Juniors though because I haven’t spoken to my coaches about what I should do.
“But right now my body feels limitless so whatever the body can produce at the time it will because I am not setting a particular point I want to get to. I mean I want to go on to win Olympic golds, set records and help people but I won’t restrict myself to any particular events or standards right now,” she added.
The World Juniors will be staged on American soil for the first time this summer when Oregon plays host to the championships from July 22 to 27.