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State Track & Field: Mogadore's Raquel Jones saves her best for last

By JONAH ROSENBLUM Staff Writer Published: June 4, 2017 4:00 AM
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COLUMBUS -- Raquel Jones came around the lone curve of the 300-meter hurdles just like she always has -- bursting with speed.

Her finish was something new and it led to something shiny -- a silver medal on the final day of the state track and field championships.

Frequently able to coast to the finish thanks to the way she runs the middle of her races, the Mogadore senior wasn't afforded that luxury Saturday.

"This was the first race all season that she had to put together from start to finish," Wildcats coach Kim Kreiner said. "We were kind of waiting to see if she could put it together, being the first time she had to do it, and she did it beautifully."

As Jones came around the bend, she was in a tight crowd of five jockeying for first. She pushed harder -- and suddenly she was in the top three. She ran even harder and held a slim lead for the second spot, finishing in 44.55 seconds, easily her personal record.

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"I don't know where it came from, but I got this little kick," Jones said. "It was down in my heart. I really wanted it and it gave me that little boost to push to second."

It was the best performance at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium by a Wildcats female athlete in years -- made all the more remarkable by the fact that Jones, a newcomer to the state meet, entered Columbus with the eighth-best seed time in the 300-meter hurdles and finished Friday with the fifth-best preliminary time.

Kreiner, in her first year coaching the Wildcats, hopes Jones' performance heralds a new age of track and field at Mogadore.

"I am hoping that we're getting off on the right foot," Kreiner said. "We are trying to set a new culture there at Mogadore for track and field that it isn't just a program where you go out and run for 20 minutes, and at practice, we're trying to build it up, so that the kids want to come out and do track."

Kreiner is well aware of how Mogadore works. Football is the dominant sport, just as it has been for decades. Still, Kreiner said, there's no reason Wildcats runners can't achieve immortality -- like Jones did Saturday morning.

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"I think we've given them some hope, because the girls are now (where) they want to go to state," Jones said. "Mogadore has always been about football, and I think now that we're showing that we can make state and do just as well, more people are going to come out."

Some of that hope comes in the form of a freshman named Hope -- Hope Murphy, who placed 11th in the 400-meter dash Friday. On Saturday, she had the chance to watch and study Jones as she posted the race of her life.

Other sources of hope run program-wide, including a competition Kreiner instituted between the boys and girls track and field programs to see which squad could get the most personal records this season. She kept tally on a board at school, with the boys winning, 188-151, albeit with a larger roster, and Kreiner said she thought that might have helped push the program forward.

"For that small of a program to have well over 300 personal-record (times) in a season is outstanding," she said.

Even more of that optimism came to life Saturday, when a green-clad senior carried the program to new heights.

Prior to 2017, Jones had never ventured to the state tournament, and Kreiner had a hard time recalling the last Wildcats girl to ascend toward the top of the medal stand in Columbus. Last year, Jones came close to making state, but fell, literally, in regionals. This season, Kreiner said, they regarded the 300 hurdles as her greatest hope. Sure enough, while Jones advanced to state in the 100-meter dash and the 300-meter hurdles, it was the latter where Jones brought the pawprint to the medal stand.

After placing second, Jones barely reacted as she walked from the track toward the tent by the medal stand -- as if she still couldn't believe she had finished second. She recalled the thought that went through her head: "Is this true?" And then when she clambered onto her perch high up on the medal stand, she flashed an impeccably bright grin.

She had made it -- and so had Mogadore.

"I remember looking in front of me at my parents, my family. My friends were all there," Jones said. "It was a good feeling just to be able to look at the crowd on the podium. I didn't think I'd ever be here."


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