NCAA Championship bid no sweat for sprinter Jonathan Jones

Brooke Nevins

For many student athletes, entering the college scene means adjusting to unprecedented crowds and expectations compared to those in high school or club sports. But before sprinter Jonathan Jones ever stepped foot on a collegiate track, he was already performing in some of the world’s biggest competitions.

Before sporting burnt orange and white, Jones made waves in the Caribbean and in Europe wearing the blue and yellow of his home country, Barbados. Now, the effects of representing his country at a young age are unfolding with success on the collegiate stage.

Following the Texas Tech Shootout in February, Jones was named the Big 12 Conference Men’s Athlete of the Week for a second time after winning the 400m while setting a Barbados National indoor record, the second-best time in school history and the second-best time in the world this season. 

“When I was recruited, I was getting known back home and across the Caribbean,” Jones said. “Just coming here and doing well, especially as a freshman, I guess people would be trying to say, ‘He’s the next whatever.’ Well, me, I couldn’t care less. I just want to have fun and enjoy the journey.”

To some, Jones’ attitude contradicts his level of success. Many athletes work tirelessly for years with the hopes of taking their talents to a collegiate level. It’s the dream of millions, yet so few are able to achieve such goals, and an even smaller number ultimately represent their country on a world stage. By the age of 19, Jones accomplished both.

“It’s an honor,” Jones said.  “Every time I got a medal and could raise my flag, I always felt proud. Even if I didn’t get a medal … I was still proud as ever to be wearing the national gear. When you can get a medal and you can be showcased in front of all the other Caribbean Islands and other countries, I can’t even describe it.”

Jones, who was raised by his grandparents, said they have played a crucial role in supporting his career. Since his childhood, their emphasis on his effort over his accomplishments serves as the foundation of his focus.

“My grandmother would never say, ‘Did you run this time, did you win?’” Jones said. “She would just ask, ‘How do you feel about your race?’ I don’t have to worry about living up to anyone’s expectations because I never had to do it before, and I won’t start now.”

While the biggest challenge for Jones’ grandmother, Ruthshield Broomes, was buying equipment and gear for him to practice in, she chose to value his character over the outcome of his performances.

“I am most proud that Jonathan is a kind person and treats everyone the right way,” Broomes said in an email. “I have placed Jonathan in God’s hands and have faith that he will make it because of that.”

Texas track & field head coach Edrick Floréal has also recognized Jones’ rare, carefree nature and believes he is so successful because he “takes it one race at a time.”

“He has absolutely no worries,” Floréal said.  “He tells me that his job is just to show up and compete and my job is to figure out the rest. He doesn’t put one millimeter of burden on himself that he doesn’t need to.” 

With the NCAA Indoor National Championship meet in Birmingham approaching, Jones doesn’t need any extra pressure. On Friday, he will look to become the second Longhorn in school history to win a national championship in the 400m. But even with the prospect of surpassing his previous mark and achieving the world’s best time, Jones is the most competitive when an even greater reward is at stake.

“We have chocolate that (the coaches) give out to the best athlete of the week, and even for that I’m super competitive. I want to win,” Jones said. “There’s options. I usually go for the Kit-Kats.”