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Jonathan Jones focusing on U.S national team after bringing gold to UB

Thrower to compete to represent United States at world championships

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Jonathan Jones would consistently tell his friends throughout the course of his college shot put career that he would one day bring a national championship to UB.

At long last, with a throw of 20.78 meters, Jones backed up his claim and brought home Buffalo’s first-ever national championship last week.

Now, he’s preparing for the next level: the world championship.

“The more I say it, the more it hits home,” Jones said. “And to be the first for UB, it’s unreal. It’s an unreal feeling to kick start the legacy for UB. This year has been a huge year for UB in itself. To bring home a national championship is unreal.”

Jones, a recently graduated senior, has been one of the most consistent and successful competitors on the track and field team for the past three seasons. And with his victory in Eugene, Oregon, last Wednesday, Jones automatically qualifies as a competitor in the USA Track and Field Championships, and will return to the same field he won gold at last week.

Jones will join a field of 14 athletes to compete for four open positions to represent the USA in the shot put world championship, which takes place from Aug. 22-30 in Beijing, China.

Winning gold wasn’t an easy task for Jones to complete. The national champion recorded a throw of 20.78 meters, a personal and program record, in his second attempt in the finals. His final throw matched the same distance as his competitor, Darrell Hill of Penn State, who Jones has been competing against since he arrived at UB.

“Me and him have been competing against each other for the past three years,” Jones said. “We’ve had rubber matches – he wins a meet, I win a meet. I got him in the bigger meet, so I knew I was in his head going into the last throw.”

Jones, now out of college, will think about the direction of his professional career. He said one of his main goals other than making it to the Olympics was to get sponsored. Jones thinks the NCAA championship was the perfect platform.

“It kind of puts me on the map for top USA throwers,” Jones said. “The USA is very strong. For me to come out with a national title, people are looking at me knowing that I have more in the tank … For next year, sponsors may be looking at having someone with the national title. They usually look at people like that for someone they’re going to sponsor.”

Jones was relayed several messages by fellow throwers at the NCAA event about his professional future. The popular answer was for Jones to finish strong at the national championships. Jones also said the end result of his national stint, win or lose, will dictate his sponsorship success.

Head coach Vicki Mitchell thinks Jones’ success will also help the Bulls.

“From a recruiting stand point, a publicity standpoint, it brings more attention to our program,” Mitchell said. “Recruiting is never easy, but it will be fun as our new recruiting year gets underway in another couple weeks to say, ‘You can come to a school where we have had a national champion.’ That’s not something a lot of schools can say.”

Mitchell praised the success of UB Athletics this past year after a program-record three conference titles during the year. But she thinks the addition of a national championship puts Buffalo “more on the map than we already are.” She also praised Jones individually, saying it was enjoyable to coach someone with the “work ethic of a champion.”

Buffalo assistant and throws coach Jim Garnham agreed.

“They say it takes a village to raise a kid. Well it takes a team to produce a champion,” Garnham said. “But you still have to have that special athlete. And he is special. To compare athletes, he is by far the best athlete I’ve ever coached. He’s a champion on a national level.”

Garnham and Jones mutually agreed it would be in the thrower’s best interests to preserve his lower body, as Jones has been battling knee injuries all season. Sometimes, he feels like his right knee got “hit with a hammer” after workouts.

“This past year, I wasn’t able to start my season until the end of indoors,” Jones said. “I couldn’t practice until the end of winter. The fall was time to practice for the season.”

Jones hasn’t been able to complete a squat workout since the middle of his junior season due to chronic knee pain. He said it has taken a toll on his lower body strength, which he believes could be much higher than it currently is.

Garnham said a normal throwing session is anywhere from 30-60 throws, but Jones has only been able to do sessions of about 15 throws because of his knee injury.

In the near future, Jones will set aside 10 weeks – seven weeks of inactiveness and three weeks of rehabilitation – to heal his knee. He expects to retrieve platelet-rich plasma (PRP) shots during the first stint of rehabilitation.

His finish at nationals will dictate the rehab schedule. If he finishes in the top-4, he will advance to the world championships and will rehab after. If he does not make the team, he will begin rehab immediately.

Garnham said Jones would be able to make a full recovery as long as the process is done correctly. For now, Mitchell instructed Jones to rest until the competition, which will take place in late June. Garnham believes Jones cannot get any stronger than he already is during the next two weeks, so a period of relaxation may be Jones’ best remedy.

Garnham doesn’t doubt Jones’ chances at nationals because of his freakish strength and athletic ability.

“Jon is basically stronger than any thrower we’ve had,” Garnham said.

Jones will compete on June 28 – the final day of competition. He will go up against the nation’s top throwers, including Joseph Kovacs, who holds the nation’s top throw this year at 22.35 meters. The event will take place at Tracktown USA in Eugene, Oregon.

Jordan Grossman is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at jordan.grossman@ubspectrum.com


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