PENDLETON — About six years ago, Parker Jones suffered an athletic setback. After being cut from a travel baseball team, he decided to spend his newfound free time during the spring on running.
Now, he is striding toward competing for a state championship.
The Pendleton Heights senior placed fourth a year ago in Bloomington in the 1,600-meter run, less than four seconds from the first-place finisher. As he stood on the podium, barely an arm’s length from the winner, he reflected on the race and how close he came to being a state champion that day.
“I was kind of disappointed in myself,” he said. “I kicked too early for sure. When I go back and watch that, it’s pretty funny. If I didn’t do that, I probably could have contended a lot better.”
Not one to dwell on coming up short, Jones is back this season and working hard to take a step or two higher on that podium. This fuel for his competitive fire will be utilized by Jones not just for the state meet, but for every race he runs this spring.
“The goal this year is to compete for the top spot in pretty much any race,” he said. “I haven’t decided what races I’ll run, but I always want to contend for first.”
In addition to the 1,600 meters, Jones also qualified for state in the 3,200 meters, where he finished 23rd. He expects to challenge for a state-qualifying time in the 800 meters this year as well.
Jones credits his work ethic to his father, Kent Jones, who he says works 12-hour days regularly. But he adds that accompanying him on a workout could lead to two different types of experiences.
“If it’s an easy run, hopefully you’ll think I’m a funny guy and I talk a lot,” he said. “But, if it’s a hard workout, you’ll probably never hear me talk. I’m working too hard.”
After his career at Pendleton Heights ends, Jones will continue his cross country and track career at Notre Dame. He will study science and business in the classroom but is looking forward to being on the track with his future Fighting Irish teammates.
“Mostly, the team aspect out there,” he said. “They run at or close to the same level I am, so I look forward to competing with them.”
Jones plans to enter medical school after studying in South Bend.