Tough Keeping Up With This Jones

Celebrating A Century of NCAA Track & Field Championships

Tough Keeping Up With This Jones

In 1989, Jolanda Jones of Houston became the first athlete to win three heptathlons at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. 

Jones’s victory in Provo 31 years ago was the most comfortable of her three NCAA titles, winning by 168 points – but her performance two years earlier in Baton Rouge may have been her most impressive.

And, yet, even though she first scored more than 6000 points in the 1987 NCAA meet, the mark didn’t seem to matter.

“I’ll take the win,” Jones told Ruth Laney for Track & Field News. “That’s all I wanted, the win.” 

Why was the win so special? After all, her score of 6068 was a PR by 242 points and made Jones then just the meet’s second over 6000 points, along with Jackie Joyner of UCLA. 

Jones revealed the answer after Day 1, when she led by 25 points. 

“I have tendinitis in my left knee,” she explained to Laney. “I laid off training in the last two weeks. But I’ll go all-out tomorrow. I’m going to try to PR in the long jump and half and will just have to pray in the javelin – it’s my worst event.”

Jones’ long jump was solid at 6.32m (20-9) – less than inch off her best – but her prayers were answered in the javelin with a PR 38.48m (126-3), far enough that a relatively easy 800 (for her) of 2:17.87 generated more than enough points for the win and huge PR score. 

After redshirting in 1988 to concentrate on the Olympic Trials – where she fell at the first barrier in the 100-meter hurdles and didn’t finish – Jones came back in 1989 for her record third NCAA heptathlon win at 6022.

Could there have been a fourth NCAA heptathlon title for Jones, who also won in 1986? No one will ever know, as Jones didn’t compete in the heptathlon in the 1985 NCAA meet as a freshman. However, three weeks after the meet, Jones was second in The Athletics Congress national championships with 5765 points – the most by a collegian that year – and beating the NCAA champ, Lauri Young of Louisiana-Monroe, who was fourth. 

Prior to her career as a Cougar, Jones was a Texas high school legend, single-handedly giving Elsik High of Alief (near Houston) a share of the 1984 Class 5A state team title by winning the 400, 800 and high jump and finishing second in the long jump.

As a post-collegian, Jones became a councilwoman for the City of Houston from 2008-11. Fans of the TV show Survivor may remember her appearance in the 2005 airing of the Palau series.

posted: October 23, 2020
The NCAA's First Championships

The NCAA and collegiate track & field will mark a momentous milestone in the spring of 2021 -- the 100th anniversary of the NCAA Championships and with that, the NCAA Track & Field Championships. In June 1921, the University of Chicago hosted the first track & field championships in NCAA history.

This point can’t be emphasized enough: Not only was the event the first for NCAA track & field, but the first championships for any sport under the sponsorship of the NCAA.

To celebrate, over each of the next 365 days, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) will celebrate moments, student-athletes, and coaches that have made a century’s worth of championships special. From humble beginnings to important historical milestones to the modern-day, collegiate track & field has evolved with the American society.

The 2021 edition of the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships begin with preliminary round action on May 27-29 in Jacksonville, Fla., and College Station, Texas. The championships final site and culmination of the celebration is slated for June 9-12, 2021 at the newly rebuilt Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Memorable Moments
Whiting Dominated SP, Nearly Set Outdoor CR
June 12, 2010

Ryan Whiting won back-to-back shot put titles at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in 2009 and 2010, narrowly missing the collegiate record in the last year.

Gerber Graduated To Elite Company
June 1, 1984

Farley Gerber of Weber State turned the steeplechase at the 1984 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships into an ultimate game of “Catch Me If You Can.” 

Rice Cooked On The Course & Track

Greg Rice, winner of the first NCAA cross country title OTD in 1938, also won two career crowns at the outdoor championships, both in the 2 mile.

Prandini Dazzled At NCAAs In 2015

2015 The Bowerman winner Jenna Prandini scored 26 points at the NCAA Division I Outdoor T&F Championships that year, winning the 100 and finishing runner-up in the 200 and long jump.

Devers Reached Legendary Status In 1988

Gail Devers scored 28½ points at the 1988 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships: 100 (1st, 10.86w), 4×400 (1st, 51.4 split), LJ (2nd, 6.55m | 21-6), 4×100 (2nd), 100H (3rd, 12.90).

Hall Equaled 120H World Record In 1969
June 19, 1969

Erv Hall won the NCAA title in the 120 Yard Hurdles at the 1969 NCAA Outdoor T&F Championships, one day after setting the world record of 13.2 in the prelims.