Jones gets call to state on bus ride home from regional
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Wade Jones was on the Tippecanoe Valley team bus ride home from the Goshen boys track regional on May 26 when he received perhaps the most memorable phone call of his athletic career.
The call was from Valley coach Jenny Moriarty. She told him that he had advanced to the IHSAA state finals in the 200 meters.
Jones had finished fifth in the regional in the 200 in 22.52 seconds, but only the top three advanced to state. But when two of the four runners who finished ahead of him, Culver Academy’s George Bourdier and Penn’s Alec Hardrict, decided to scratch, Jones was suddenly in.
The state meet is 3 p.m. Saturday at the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex in Bloomington. The 200 meter trials are scheduled to start at approximately 5:40 p.m.
Jones is the No. 18 in the field of 27 runners. His 22.52 at the regional was a new Valley school record.
“I’m a little bit excited,” Jones said. “I get to have my first experience, take that all in and just have a good time and show what I can do.”
Jones said he started in seventh grade and said he just “kind of fell in love with it.”
But as a freshman in 2021, he had to wait his turn behind faster teammates like Rex Kirchenstien, Braden Shepherd, Jamasyn Virgil and Alek Mikel. He said it wasn’t frustrating; rather, he said he just had to get used to high school track.
“I didn’t really develop my speed until this offseason,” Jones said. “Because I definitely saw a big transformation from my freshman year to my sophomore year. … I got into lifting a little bit more. I took that a little bit more serious. So I guess you could say my training schedule improved a lot better.”
Asked to describe what this season has been like, and he calls it a “fresh start.”
Jones said he does a “bare minimum” of lifting during track season. He said he focuses on the “little things” to help him with his speed more so than during football season, when he was one of the state’s top safeties and broke the school record with 10 interceptions in a season.
Valley assistant coach Casey Wise helps with the “little things.” Jones said he’s been focusing on getting off to a good start out of the blocks.
Running a good curve out of the blocks in the first half of the race often propels a runner into a fast straightaway in the second half.
“Power from your block start and staying down and having that smooth transition from when you’re down to standing up to full speed and just gliding,” Jones said. “You want to stay down for about 30 to 40 meters and then gradually come up.”
He said the seniors have also been beneficial. Jones runs the anchor leg on the Valley school-record 4 x 100 relay team that won the sectional in 43.50 seconds. They ran a 43.51 at the regional and placed fourth, falling to Elkhart by less than 0.01 seconds for the final state spot.
Jones is both the anchor and the only non-senior on the relay, which also includes Caleb Petgen, Dawson Perkins and Kirchenstien.
Jones was torn when asked what his favorite sport is. After mulling the question, he said “football.”
His answer was within earshot of Moriarty, whose husband is Valley football coach Stephen Moriarty.
“Practice is not over for you, Wade,” Jenny Moriarty exclaimed to laughter.
A considerate Jones said a football team is like a family while a track athlete is on his own trying to get better. And in football, he might watch a lot of game film on an opposing quarterback and study his tendencies. Preparation for a track meet is little more than looking at times of those who are your top competitors.
At this point, Jones, a Mentone native, has nothing to lose as his sophomore season will end one way or another on Saturday.
“It is exciting, but it’s not as important as it would be, I guess, in the next couple years if I do make it,” Jones said. “I’m just going there to have a good time and see what it is like.”
Tippecanoe Valley boys track state qualifiers, from left, Wade Jones, Wade Melanson, Dawson Perkins