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Completing Unfinished Business Motivates Jones Heading into Nationals
Track and Field  . 

Completing Unfinished Business Motivates Jones Heading into Nationals

by Brad Muller, Director of Content

Heading into the 2019 NCAA East Regional for track & field, fifth year senior Otis Jones had already earned his college degree in criminal justice, earned second team All-SEC honors twice, and had reached the NCAA regional meet every year of his college career. There was still something missing, and after coming up short in his desire to reach the NCAA Outdoor Championships the previous three years, Jones was going to make the most of his final opportunity and qualified in the 800 meters.

“It feels pretty good,” Jones said. “I feel like I’m finally fulfilling that unfinished business. It took four tries, but I finally made it to nationals. Watching it from home each year, I had to grind it out this year and keep pushing. This year I thought, I’m not going to lose hope. I’m going to get it right sooner or later, and I finally got it right!

“It’s pretty amazing because I’ve made it, but I haven’t even reached my personal record yet. I still have a lot in the tank. My legs are fresh, so I’m going to go for a p.r. at nationals.”

After a fast start at regionals in Jacksonville, Fla., Jones finished second in his race and earned an automatic qualifying bid with a time of 1:49.77.

“I knew I had to place in the top three,” Jones said. “After the first lap, I was in first place, but then a guy passed me and took first, and I said to myself, I’ve got to keep second place. Everyone was closing in around me. People were diving for the line and falling, but I made it. It was a dog fight.”

After the personal disappointment in seeing his season end at in the regional meet in each of the previous three years, Jones had plenty of motivation heading into the 2019 postseason.

“Coach (Andrew) Allden always had faith in me. He’s always saying that I’m his guy, even in the bad races when I’m down.”
– Otis  Jones

“I think I matured,” Jones said. “I’ve probably run only around 80 races in the 800 in my career, but I felt like I was more mature than the field. I’m still learning a lot now, but I learned a lot over the years and realized what it took to make it. I had to grow up, and I had to grow up in that moment.”

Jones also credits his teammates and coaches for helping him achieve his goals.

“There were a lot who helped. (Junior) Quincy Hall is motivating everybody, and (fifth year senior) Isaiah (Moore), and (redshirt junior) Eric (Favors), and everyone with the 4×4 relay; they’re all motivating everyone,” Jones said. “Guys like (redshirt freshman) Blake Newcomb would come out to practice and help me, even when his season was done.

“Coach (Andrew) Allden always had faith in me. He’s always saying that I’m his guy, even in the bad races when I’m down. At the Penn Relays, I had a bad race, and he told me, ‘you’re still my guy.’ He’s always motivating me and picking me up at practice. He’s helped me hit the marks I needed to hit with my times. He set me up to be great.”

Now that he has qualified for nationals for the first time, Jones won’t just be happy to be there.

“I can’t be complacent just because I made it,” Jones said. “I’m going to respect the field that’s there because they’ll respect me. I don’t want to fail when I go out there. I’ll take prelims one at a time. I’ll take one 200 at a time.

“Competing in the SEC, I’m pretty familiar with the field that will be there, at least with the guys from the east. I have to tune in and stay focused. Sometimes I can get myself psyched out, so mentally, I have to take one day at a time leading up to it. I’m just going to focus on times right now.”

The 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships will be held June 5-8 in Austin, Texas.