Trio of CU Buffs track stars taking off for pro careers

Four-time NCAA champ Dani Jones among group passing on extra year of eligibility

Daniel Petty / The Denver Post
Colorado’s Dani Jones, left, Taylor Tuttle, center, and Tabor Scholl react after winning the team title on Saturday at the NCAA cross country championships in Verona, Wis.

The running careers of three of the all-time greats at the University of Colorado have officially come to an end.

On Friday, CU announced that three senior track and field stars — Dani Jones, Joe Klecker, and Makena Morley — will not return in 2021, as all three are set to begin pro careers.

Jones, Klecker, and Morley already were fifth-year seniors, but after the spring sports season was canceled due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA announced all spring sports athletes could retain the year of eligibility that went unused this spring. Jones, Klecker, and Morley, however, have opted to pursue pro opportunities instead of returning to school for the outdoor track season a year from now.

None of those athletes had eligibility remaining in either indoor track or cross country.

“Dani, Joe and Makena have been important contributors to the CU program, and to our lasting legacy,” CU head coach Mark Wetmore said in a statement released by CU. “It will be impossible to replace them. The problem with saying ‘Go Buffs’ is that, eventually, they have to go. They are now heading off in varying directions, but we will proudly watch them excel in their coming adventures.”

Jones reached rare company during her CU career, becoming just the third CU runner (after Jenny Simpson and Adam Goucher) to win four national championships, including the 2018 cross country title. She collected three additional national titles in track, winning the 3,000 meters and the distance medley at the 2017 indoor finals as well as the 5,000-meter outdoor championship last year.

Klecker was an 11-time NCAA qualifier for the Buffs, and was the runner-up at the 2019 cross country championships last fall. He also is the CU record-holder in the men’s 5,000 meters, posting a time of 13 minutes, 34.10 seconds this past winter during the indoor season. Klecker would have been a contender for the 3,000 and 5,000 meter national championships at the NCAA indoor finals before they were canceled.

Morley finished eighth at the 2018 NCAA cross country championships, playing a key supporting role behind Jones as the Buffs won the team championship. Morley was a three-time first team All-American in track.