Ferndale track star Daniel Jones, while sprinting up snow-covered Mt. Baker terrain on the weekends or speed training with his resistance parachute, knew this spring would be his final shot at reaching state.
“We knew coming in that this was his year,” Golden Eagles track and field coach Ted Genger said in a phone interview.
Jones did, too.
So, in an effort to reach his goals, Jones has further established himself as the hardest working athlete Genger said he has coached in his 28 years.
That’s saying something. And it should also come as no surprise, then, that Jones is achieving new PRs on a near weekly basis and is in the midst of the best season of his four-year track and field career.
“I just think it’s fun to work hard, to go to my limit to where I can’t lift any more weight, to where I can’t run anymore,” Jones said.
Few in the Northwest Conference can rival Jones’ track speed. There may be none who can match his work ethic.
Every day at practice Genger offers two separate sprint workouts. The first — the regular sprinters’ workout — is a challenging set of exercises intended to increase speed and help athletes improve.
Then there’s the men’s club, as Genger calls it. And Jones is its only regular member.
“The men’s club is way harder,” Jones explained. “It’s more for the elite sprinters, kind of. I try to encourage kids to do it, but most kids don’t, because it’s too hard.”
Jones doesn’t stop at the men’s club workout, though. Some days, the senior sprinter said, he’ll complete a weightlifting session before practice, do the men’s club workout and then add to it by running stairs, hills or more sprints.
Jones’ spring workouts have simply been a precursor to what commenced two weeks after Jones finished running for 446 yards and seven touchdowns for Ferndale’s football team last fall. As soon as Jones healed up from football, track and field training began.
With the help of his dad, Jones completed innovative workouts during the winter offseason and combined those with countless hours building speed on the track and in the weight room.
“It definitely paid off,” Jones said. “In earlier years, I wouldn’t start until late January, and that definitely influenced those years. This year I see how the work before the season has paid off.”
Jones has certified himself as one of the top two or three sprinters in the Northwest Conference. He owns the league’s top 200-meter time (22.31 seconds), is tied for second in the 100 (11.24) and has the third-best 400-meter run (51.44).
He’s shaved 0.63 seconds off the best 200 PR he had his first three seasons, 0.11 seconds off his best 100 and 0.72 off his top 400.
He’s had four new PRs in the 200, and in his last outing — 22.31 at the Eason Invitational on April 18 — he further engraved himself as the school’s record holder in that event.
Earlier this season at the Bedlington Invite, Jones topped his brother’s old school record in the 400 by running a 51.44.
“You don’t have to motivate him, nothing,” Genger said. “He could coach himself. I call him the silent assassin. He is such a quiet kid and unassuming, but when he steps on the track it speaks pretty loud with what he can do in the 200, 400 and 100.”
Surprisingly, the 200 has turned into Jones’ best race. It’s somewhat of a revelation, because before his mom suggested he try it, Jones had never considered the 200.
Jones had always thought of himself as a 100-meter specialist before older brother Jacob, who got Daniel immersed into track and field as a freshman and had a fine track and field career himself, told Daniel to add the 400 to his repertoire. Daniel competed in the 200 one time as a freshman before sticking to the race his sophomore season . Now he owns Class 3A’s sixth-best time in the state.
The 200 blends Daniel’s power and stride length perfectly.
“I have the power from weightlifting from football,” said Jones, who stands 6-foot-2. “We did lots of training, weightlifting stuff that built my power and then my long stride. I’m just genetically tall. I have the power and stride. The stride can pull me along faster than most kids, and I don’t run out of gas as fast, because it takes me less steps to get to the end than other kids that are shorter than me.”
Ferndale, in recent years, hasn’t been known as a track and field powerhouse. Pole vaulter Donovan Campeau was the only Golden Eagle to reach state last season. But athletes such as Jones and distance runner Roberto Aguilera give Ferndale’s younger athletes strong role models to emulate.
Jones, a team captain, takes pride in that.
“He leads by example, and nothing speaks louder than that,” Genger said.
While Jones will be hoping to qualify for state in all three of his events, the 200 gives him his best shot. He finished fourth at least year’s district meet, one spot beyond the top three qualifiers. As heartbreaking as it was, Jones said he knew he could do better this spring, and he’s not removing from reality the thought of a state championship, either.
“I definitely think it’s within ...,” Jones paused. “It’s my goal to win state. I think I could. I think I could get a 21.6, which is a good time, and I think I could win state with that. That’s about where I want to be.”