It is tempting to picture a championship race as a fast-paced competition composed of flawless execution.
Not all competitions play out like that, though. For sophomore long-distance runner Dani Jones, her first NCAA indoor individual title win was far from perfect.
"The race did not go out the way that we thought it would, it went out much slower and there was a lot of jostling and bumping around in the middle," Jones said. "Luckily, I found an opening in the madness of the middle of the pack."
That opening would lead to Jones taking home the title in the 3,000 meter race with a time of 9 minutes and 9.20 seconds. The last Buff to win an indoor title in the 3,000 was Jenny Simpson in 2009. While Jones is just a sophomore and has a lot of growing to do, it is nonetheless exciting to be following in the footsteps of Simpson, a three-time Olympian and a medal winner at both the Olympics and world championships.
"I still have a long way to go to even consider following in her footsteps, but it is still really cool to have her around," Jones said. "It gives you a sense of possibility, seeing her and the other pro athletes at practices gives you a sense of where you want to be. It sets your standards a little higher."
In addition to the individual title, Jones was a part of a distance medley relay team that brought home a title as well. Jones and her teammates Tabor Scholl, Elissa Mann and Sage Hurta were able to get the win with a time of 11:00.34, breaking a CU record. Jones' kick was enough to edge Stanford's team by a slim margin of .02 seconds.
"I think the DMR title meant more to me personally than the individual one did just because we definitely weren't on the radar for the DMR," Jones said."We were going against collegiate record holders and girls that had run seven seconds faster than we had. We were just going into it thinking top-5 would be great, let's just run our best legs and see what happens. When I got the baton, I thought 'okay, we can actually win this thing' because we were in it the whole time."
This is the first time in Colorado track history that an athlete has won two national indoor titles in the same year. The accomplishment is notable, but the effects of these wins will likely lead to even greater achievements for Jones.
"Maybe she will enter big races with another level of confidence, and the experience of the race will raise her skill level some," said track and field coach Mark Wetmore.