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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Catching up with San Leandro HS runner, Nijae Jones...

Today we chat with San Leandro senior runner, Nijae Jones.  Last year, Jones recorded a then PR in the 400m. by 56.53 at the Stanford Invitational.  She also lowered her 800m. PR multiple times during the season until she dipped under the 2:11 barrier at the NCS MOC with a narrow 2nd place finish behind Madison Ricks of California HS in 2:10.90 (Jones to the right, Ricks to the left in the 2012 NCS MOC meet).  Her 2nd place finish gave Jones her 3rd state meet berth following her 3rd place finish as a freshman and 2nd place finish as a sophomore.  Jones improved her PR twice more at the state meet by running 2:10.52 at the trials and 2:10.39 in the finals.  The time in the finals earned her a 6th place finish and she is the top returning runner this season in the 800m.

1) What other sports have you participated in besides Track and Field?
I've did softball, gymnastics and ballet when I was younger then I moved on to track and cross country when I turned 8.

2) What led you to your start in running?
My friend told me about the deer valley youth team, so I joined and later switched to 3M track club.

3) What was the first success that you remember in the sport?
My first success was making it to the junior Olympics and then becoming number one in the nation for the 800 when I was a second year midget.

4) You ran at Deer Valley HS as a freshman and qualified for the state meet. What other highlights did you have that season?
My other highlights of that season were probably winning the BVAL championships and finishing off with the 11th fastest time in the state in the 800m.

5) How did you end up moving to San Leandro? What were some of your highlights from your sophomore season?
I moved to San Leandro because my mom worked in the Bay Area and we knew people that attended that high school. My highlights from that season were winning the league championship, winning NCS, and qualifying for state meet under a new coaching staff.

6) You qualified for your 3rd state meet last season and finished in 6th place at the state meet. What did you learn from that state meet experience?
From that experience last season, I learned that I have to run my own race, I can't change my technique because of my competition's style of running, and also that I need to make sure that I balance out my speed work with a lot of endurance.

7) What are some of your favorite workouts that really prepare you for the 800m.?
I think running hills really prepare me for the 800 and those are definitely my favorite work outs plus speed work.

8) Favorite invitational? Favorite opponent? Favorite relay event? 
My favorite invitational is definitely the Mt. Sac Relays in Walnut, California. I don't necessarily have a favorite opponent but if I had to choose I guess it would be Amy Weissenbach or Savannah Cammacho (I've raced her since I was in youth track). And my favorite relay event is of course the 4x4.

9) Tell us a little about your coaches and how they have helped you develop into the runner you are today?
I've had a lot of different coaches but out of two of them Curtis Taylor helped me really develop my speed and improve my work ethic. My newest coach Noah S. has helped me really work through everything despite how hard it may be, and he has also helped me really realize my true courage when I'm competing. All of my coaches have helped me develop as not just an athlete but a respectful young woman.

10) How did you end up choosing the college you will be attending next year? How difficult was your decision?
Well I knew I wanted to be in the PAC 12 & Cal Berkeley was my first choice just because I love Berkeley, California. I love the people and the school has a high reputation as being a prestigious university. The track team and coaches are totally great with how they work really well together. Also, because I know getting a degree and eventually a masters from Cal, I will have a lot of opportunities in life that not everyone will get.  Lastly, it's also close to home next to my mom and I'm a huge "mama's girl".

11) What races are you looking forward to the rest of the season? 
This season I'm looking forward to running the 800 at the Mt. Sac Relays Invitational and all of the California State Meet races.

12) Anything else you would like to add.
I was the only underclassman to place in the state meet 800 meter finals last year, and because I'm on a new work out plan, I really hope to win the state meet.

Thank you very much for your time, Nijae!  AJC

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