The authority for sports coverage in the Fredericksburg region.
Prep Winter Track Preview: Spring in step gives Eagles’ Jones big lift
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
Sean Hill was at a Colonial Forge basketball game last winter when he first noticed Crystal Jones.
The Eagles’ freshman cheerleader performed a series of back handsprings across the gymnasium floor that made Hill’s jaw drop.
A Colonial Forge cheerleading coach told Hill that he could expect to see more of Jones in the spring.
This week, The Free Lance–Star is previewing the winter high school sports season. Here is the schedule:
TODAY: Track and field
Saturday: Girls basketball
Sunday: Boys basketball
Jones was set to join the Eagles’ track and field team, and Hill is the program’s co-head coach who specializes in the sprinting and jumping events.
“I didn’t realize it was her when she showed up [for track practice],” Hill said. “But then it made a lot of sense as I started put-ting two and two together.”
It made sense to Hill because he saw the same type of dynamic athlete on the track that he witnessed that night in the gym.
Jones has a background in cheerleading and gymnastics. She trained for eight years with the Stafford Royals gymnastics program and she said that sport is her first love.
The experience with it aided Jones last spring as she won the Group AAA outdoor state championship in the high jump with a leap of 5 feet, 8 inches.
“I’m thoroughly impressed by her,” said Colonial Forge senior Lauren Lieske, who trains with Jones in the high jump daily. “When she jumps, she’s so flexible. It’s like, perfect.”
Hill is anticipating watching Jones develop more in her first-ever winter season, which gets under way Saturday with a 10-team meet at Brooke Point.
Jones, a sophomore, hasn’t competed since the state championships. She did not participate in the New Balance Outdoor Nationals two weeks later, but the winning jump in that event was only a half-inch higher than Jones’ leap of 5–8.
“I would say that was probably the lazy part of her by not wanting to take that ride to North Carolina,” Hill said of why Jones didn’t participate in nationals. “But this season we’re going to every national event we can go to.”
Hill is a former track and football standout at Colonial Forge and Virginia Military Institute. He graduated from Colonial Forge in 2003 and has been a coach for the Ea-gles the past three seasons.
He said Jones is the first athlete he’s been able to groom from the beginning. He and Jones worked together all summer.
Jones was a JV football cheerleader in the fall, but had no problem giving up cheering for track and field this winter.
“It wasn’t a hard decision at all,” Jones said. “Track is now my first priority.”
Jones will also compete in the long jump, triple jump and 500 meters for the Eagles this season. She said she’s grown “an inch or two” since last spring and now stands 5-foot-8.
She’s hoping that assists her in reaching new heights. Hill said the goal is to clear 5–10 and win a national championship.
“I’m not as nervous as I was last year,” Jones said. “I feel like I can reach whatever height that I want to.”
Still, there are potential setbacks. Jones said that in some regards she feels like a freshman all over again because she’s never performed during a cold winter.
But Hill won’t allow that to be an excuse. He said Jones has the ability to become “a true champion” who can perform regardless of the weather.
“[The] sky’s the limit,” Hill said. “We have goals and if she keeps working hard, I think we’ll get them. But we’re going to take it step by step, meet by meet, and we’ll go from there.”
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526