Daniel Petty/Special to AFN

The idiom “runs in the family” has a literal translation for University of Colorado track star Dani Jones.

Her parents met on the track and field team at Indiana State University, and now her younger sister is running on the same proverbial path as she did: from Desert Vista High School to the University of Colorado.

Soon, Dani and Baylee will be running together again – competitive as ever – just as the sisters did when they were kids.

They can’t help it. It’s in their DNA.

“We’ve been teammates for our whole life,” Dani said. “We’ll get in a good rhythm and it’ll start feeling normal again.”

It wasn’t like the Jones sisters had cleats for baby shoes, but their parents – a pair of track-team lovebirds that produced two of the greatest runners in Arizona prep history – helped turn a sibling rivalry into athletic excellence.

Dani wasn’t all that interested in running at first. She ran up and down the soccer field with aspirations of stardom, but track and field never really crossed her mind. That was until she attended one of her little sister’s meets.

Tana Jones turned to her first daughter and whispered: “You know, I think if you and your sister ran four miles, she’d probably beat you.”

Game on.

“That was it right there,” Dani said with a laugh. “As soon as my mom said that to me I was ready to prove that I could beat her.”

Dani had it all planned out: beat Baylee at her own game and go back to soccer. Years later, that still hasn’t happened; Dani still hasn’t returned to the field.

Despite the friendly rivalry with her little sister, Dani won a cross-country state title in her senior year at Desert Vista. She was later named an All-American before earning a scholarship to CU.

Any older sibling can’t stand the thought of being bested by the younger, but Dani doesn’t see it that way. Running alongside – and yes, sometimes behind – her sister strengthened their bond and created an extra sense of motivation.

“She used to be half my size so it bothered me that she could beat me,” she said. “Over the years it’s changed a lot and we build each other up instead of trying to do the opposite.”

While her sister continued to star at Desert Vista, Dani finished her sophomore outdoor season at Colorado strong, placing fifth in the 1,500 meters at nationals after winning the Pac-12 titles in the 1,500 and 5,000. Her indoor season was even better, capped with a national title in the 3,000 meters.

The adjustment to collegiate competition was challenging for Dani, even though it was made easier by the beautiful scenery in Boulder. She struggled at times to make top-seven during her freshman year.

But she acknowledges a steady improvement in her performances and fitness level in just two years’ time. Personal records and titles don’t come easy.

“I just have my coaches to thank for getting me to where I needed to be,” Dani said. “Running is hard. The atmosphere and support I get makes it easier.”

Baylee will be thrust into the same challenging situation that her sister was once she arrives in Colorado. It will be made easier having her sister there, though, and can only benefit both of their careers in the long run.

Who knows? By the time the Jones family makes its next journey to the NCAA track and field championships, maybe both daughters will be competing in the same race.

Maybe, finally, Dani will edge out Baylee. Either way, they expect to continue building a legacy that makes their parents proud.

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