JaWuan Jones never competed in indoor track & field until this season. When he began the season seven weeks ago, his primary goal was just to stay in shape for football. Since then, he’s broken Waynesburg University’s school record in the 60-meter dash and finished one spot away from qualifying for nationals.
“It’s just kind of been fun this year because it’s been discovered that he is good,” track & field head coach Michelle Cross said. “He has that element of a runner, that as a coach, it just gives you goosebumps because he just has that wolf pack mentality where if he sees someone in front of him he sees red and you just see that heart immediately come out.”
Jones competed in outdoor track & field events throughout high school but gave up the sport after he was recruited to play football for Waynesburg University. Despite being away from track & field since 2014, he returned. After his sophomore year playing as a wide receiver, Jones decided to use track & field as a conditioning method to stay in shape during the offseason.
“[Cross] got me on board, because when I first came I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Jones said. “But the more I started practicing, the [coaches] were telling me like, ‘yeah we think you can do big things in these events.’”
As a sprinter, Jones primarily competes in events like the 60-meter dash and the 200-meter dash. Cross said she attributes a portion of his success to natural athleticism, but also his fighting spirit.
“He’s definitely very, very talented,” Cross said. “But, I would also attribute that to he is a competitor—he hates to lose. He’s one of those people who legitimately hate to lose and hates to lose more than he likes to win maybe.”
This year, Jones came close to setting the school record in the 60-meter dash in the penultimate meet of the season at the Kenyon College Classic where he ran a time of 7.15 seconds. The following week, at the Presidents’ Athletic Conference Championship, he had one last opportunity to break the record before the indoor season ended.
During the championship meet, Jones finished with a time of 7.10 seconds in the finals. The time broke Waynesburg University’s school record and secured Jones a second-place finish in the PAC.
Jones wasn’t the only Yellow Jacket to break records in the championship meet. Junior Mike Trax broke a record he previously set in the triple jump. From the perspective of Cross, she knew Trax had the potential to be a record-breaker since last year.
“The very last meet of the year we were down in Maryland at John Hopkins University and he PR’d on that very last meet,” Cross said. “It was like all these things he has been learning technique-wise kind of came together and clicked in his head.”
After spending his freshman year primarily focused on improving technique, Trax said the results aren’t always immediate.
“When you have to learn technique it really sets you back,” Trax said. “You’ll be jumping great, but once you try to like learn the technique at meets you won’t jump as good.”
By focusing on finding confidence in his athletic ability, Trax began to find increased success during meets.
“If you don’t have confidence going in, it really affects your jumping,” Trax said. “My freshman year when I didn’t really have confidence and I was so young, it was a weird adjustment.”
Even when Trax worked through perfecting his technique, Cross saw Trax’s ability to learn from his mistakes.
“He just kind of shrugs off when something goes poorly,” Cross said. “He kind of has the ability to look at it for what it is, put it aside and refocus, which again is a skill that is very difficult to teach someone how to do.”
At the conference championship, Trax had no difficulty focusing on the task at hand. Primarily, he wanted to finish first, but resetting the school record in the triple jump wasn’t completely out of his mind.
“I knew I could do it going into it, but my goal was to just win PAC’s and answer that No. 1 seed I was ranked at,” Trax said. “After my first couple of jumps I was like, ‘I’m right there, I can keep pushing for the record.’”
Ultimately, Trax rebroke the school record with a triple jump of 13.3 meters, which gave him a first-place finish in the conference.