Daily photo illustration by Gary Lloyd|
Hazlewood High's Amber Jones, left, won four individual events at the Class 1A girls state championship meet while leading her team to a second-place finish. Shane Edge won a pair of individual championships, while pacing Falkville to the 2A boys state crown.
ALL-AREA TRACK AND FIELD
Hazlewood's Jones runs down four individual state crowns
By Brooke Milam
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2460
There's only one thing that Hazlewood High sophomore Amber Jones likes better than competing — winning.
And she wins in most anything she tries.
This spring, it was track and field that drew accolades for Jones, who is also a standout on the basketball court and was a finalist for Miss Basketball this past season. The Hazlewood sophomore also kept busy by playing volleyball and softball and cheerleading.
In track and field, though, she won four individual Class 1A state championships and helped Hazlewood finish runner-up, and for her performance, Jones is named The Decatur Daily's girls track athlete of the year.
"Whenever you see her perform in anything, you see what a competitor she is," said first-year Hazlewood head coach Nicholas Vinson, who won the 1998 boys track athlete honor while competing for the Golden Bears.
Jones won the 400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters at this year's state meet. She accomplished all that after missing her freshman year of athletics because of knee surgery for a ligament tear in preseason basketball practice.
Jones said the setback served as a motivator.
“I wasn’t in track shape at all at the beginning of the year. I wasn’t winning, and that made me mad,” Jones said. “I thought I wasn’t as fast as I used to be, but it was just that I hadn’t done track in two years.”
Jones said that with Vinson’s help she returned to form by the second half of the season. Jones said extra running and motivation from her coach helped her times drop significantly.
“She’s a tremendous athlete, but her success is because of the way she trains,” Vinson said. “There’s no groaning or complaining. She never tries to get out of any work. It’s a joy to coach an athlete that is that dedicated.”
Vinson said Jones’ desire for success is admirable and that he never doubted her abilities early in the season.
“She’s a very durable person and she could take rigorous training,” Vinson said. “By the end of the season I knew she was ready and would be able to win her events at state.”
At Vinson’s request, Jones ran the 1,600 and 3,200 in the state meet to spread out the team’s points in hopes of taking the state team title. The distance events weren’t ones Jones ran often.
Even so, she won both.
“That says a great deal for her,” Vinson said. “We needed her to go out and run the mile and two-mile, and she did it just for the team. I was very proud of her.”
Jones said she prefers the sprint events, and she has had success in those.
However, she seemed to perform well enough in the distance races, too.
“Halfway in the race I’m sometimes tired, but I keep going because I want to win,” Jones said. “After the race I wonder, ‘Why do I do this?’ I just like to win.”
It was the 400 meters that gave Jones some concern at the state meet. She said she had compared qualifying times and thought it would be her toughest challenge. Again, she rose to the occasion, finishing in 2 minutes, 36.57 seconds, ahead of Donoho’s Elizabeth Childers, who clocked in at 2:37.51.
“When I have more competition I just run faster,” Jones said. “I speed up when I have to.”
Jones said she favors the hurdles and triple jump, where she placed third in a national track and field meet as an eighth-grader — the same summer she learned the event.
Jones will keep busy with off-season training in other sports, but also will run a summer track schedule in which Vinson said she will compete in none of the same events as during the high school season.
“That’s what makes her so well-rounded,” Vinson said. “I would say she has competed in eight or nine different events. Honestly, the sky is the limit for her.
“She is definitely an all-around athlete.”
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