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As the middle school cross country season hits a peak, Caitlyn Jones is on a tear. The St Michael's runner has won everything from weekday tri meets to big invites like the Pickerington North Classic. She earned her two mile PR of 12:10 while winning the Celtic Clash at Dublin Jerome, and she's now focused firmly on the middle school state meet to close out her breakthrough season. We caught up with the young runner to talk training, racing, and more.
CRC: When did you get started as a runner? What drew you to the sport?
Caitlyn Jones: I started running when I was about seven. I remember my first actual race was a 5k, the Jingle Bell Run. Even though I don’t remember it too well, my dad, who is also one of my coaches, remembers me doing it without walking much. When I was younger the only races I did were 5ks, so I became extremely comfortable with that distance. When I joined track in fourth grade, I really started getting drawn to the sport. It’s when I started to realize how well I could do if I kept practicing. A few years later I joined cross country and running eventually became the only sport I did.
CRC: This season has been full of highlights. What’s been your favorite moment?
CJ: My favorite moment of this cross country season has probably been the first meet at Worthington High School. I have never gotten first in a race until then. Trust me, it’s worth the hard work. I didn’t know how fast I have gotten over the summer, compared to everyone else, until that day. It was just really fun crossing that finish line knowing there was no one else ahead of me.
CRC: What kind of training do you put in? What does it take to compete at your level?
CJ: I practice six days a week. It is kind of hard because most weeks, two of those days are meets. After the meets I usually have to put in a few more miles. The other days of the week I train with the team, with my dad, and with Columbus Running Company elite team. Since I’m in middle school, I only race two miles, so it is very quick and there isn’t as much time to make a move. So my training requires quite a bit of speed work but also longer runs to keep the weekly mileage up.
CRC: You're in a unique situation, going to one school (St. Brendan) but competing for another (St. Michael) since your school doesn't offer XC. What is it like to be teammates with kids from a variety of schools?
CJ: I think that running with kids from a variety of schools is a good chance to meet different people, but who still have the same interest as you. It’s cool because you know all these people really care about running. Even though their school might not have a team, they find a way to get to these practices and meets. Another unique thing about it is that these people are your competition in track, but your teammates in cross country. It’s cool to come to the first day of cross country practice with the motivation to beat someone who might have beaten you in track, and is also standing right beside you waiting to start practice.
CRC: Over the summer, you went big and attended across country camp at the Air Force Academy. What was the experience like? What was your favorite moment at the camp?
CJ: The experience at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs was definitely not like anything I’ve ever done before. It was really fun meeting some really fast college runners, some who were even coaching us at the camp. We ran every day at the camp, before and after lunch. Sometimes we would practice on the track, other times we would take a bus out to a trail. It was neat because all the kids there were really serious about running and were determined to get better. You're probably wondering, why Colorado if there is many other local running camps that I could’ve gone to? Well, training in the high altitude definitely benefited me and got me a lot faster than I think any other camp could’ve gotten me. I ran a 2k time trial before and after the camp and my time was about 20 seconds faster! My favorite moment at camp was when we ran on the Santa Fe trail because it was a very long, neat trail with a lot of wildlife.
CRC: As you move up to high school and then beyond, what are your goals in running and in life? How do you see running helping you attain those goals?
CJ: In high school I hope to make top in the state as a runner. I think it would be a good stepping stone as I move on to college. Then I hope running will help me get into a college that will get me a suitable job. Most importantly, I want running to stay fun and injury-free because I hope to do it for the rest of my life.
CRC: What one piece of advice would you offer to young runners who are just starting our sport?
CJ: First, just make sure you are enjoying what you are doing. Then commit to it and practice practice practice. There is always time to improve. Anyone can get good at running, it just depends on your effort and your attitude. You will only get better if you give it all you got and never give up.
Looking to boost your own XC potential? Check out Myers Running Camp and CRCXC Camp, two great summer training options to help you take your run to the next level. Early bird 2019 registration now open for both.