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Jones making strides at Alabama

By Michael Butler

It was ten years ago when Jace Jones was running in the Tallassee Chamber of Commerce 5K. Jones, the son of former Tallassee football coach Jared Jones, has traveled many miles since then. He is now in his second year with the University of Alabama track team.

At Thompson High School, Jones held records in the 800 meters, 1,600 meters, 3,200 meters, one-mile and 4 x 800 meter relay. His prep successes are now crossing over to the college level.

Over the weekend, Jones was third in the 800 meters at the Music City Challenge in Nashville, Tenn.

"I hadn't run in the 800 since high school," he said. "I ran 1:51. I was pretty pleased. The week before I ran the mile at Texas A&M. That's usually my best event. I ran a 4:06 for that and got fourth."

The 4:06 in the mile was a personal best. Breaking the four-minute barrier in the mile is one of Jones' goals.

"That's the ultimate goal as a distance runner - to break four minutes. We have a guy on our team from Kenya. He ran a 3:54 this weekend. That puts him second in the nation. That's a good training partner to have."

As for the origins of Jones' running - it goes back to Tallassee.

"I ran the 5K at Tallassee," he recalled. "We ran across the bridge and ran back through the Dixie Youth Park. Colin, my brother, and Woodrow Dean, we all ran that. That's kind of what started me running."

Dean, a Tallassee senior, has made the commitment to run collegiately at Liberty University next season.

Jones (with father Jared in the background) and other medalists at the 2012 Tallassee Now 5K (left to right): Georgia Anne Butler, McKenzie Parker, Woodrow Dean, Jones, Ethan Stevenson, Jack Parker.

Jones' regimen requires a total commitment.

"You can only be so naturally good at running. You have to put in the work to be successful. It's different from every sport. That's why I enjoy the sport. You have to put just as much work in as everybody else."

As for the sheer enjoyment of running, that does not always come natural for Jones.

"Sometimes I hate running because it's so hard, but then you're successful in the race and you get the benefits. (It) makes you feel like you've accomplished something. It's like working out in the yard and you see the results."

Jones running the relay at UA

The SEC Championship in College Station, Texas is coming up with the NCAA Division I Championship to follow in Birmingham.

"The ultimate is for our team to win SEC. For nationals, we're top four right now."

Why was Alabama the pick for Jones?

"They were the first school to start recruiting me. I kind of knew I wanted to go in-state or somewhere close. Alabama's program is second to none."

Growing up in an Auburn family and being an Auburn fan himself, Jones has not turned back since selecting the Crimson Tide.

"I used to be with Auburn - sadly, but Alabama is the place to be. It's a running joke with our family, they say Roll Jace instead of Roll Tide."

The Finance major is minoring in Real Estate, all the while balancing studies with his time with the track team.

"This morning we had a 5:45 meeting. We had weights at 6 a.m. We go in the football weight room. After weights I ran two miles on the indoor field. That's a light, easy run. I'll eat breakfast after and have class at 9."

Jones said among the perks of being an athlete are the offerings from the athletic dining hall.

"It's probably the best food I've ever eaten. I usually get a waffle. It has the Alabama logo in it. They have a custom omelet bar. They have a pancake bar. They always have grits and eggs. The best food is dinner. I sent my dad a picture of my plate last week. We had lobster and steak. I'm really spoiled."