MESA – It takes some guts to try a bold move.
A year ago Dani Jones usually finished her races with a final kick to overtake anyone who was in front of her down the back stretch.
Under the influence of coach Jeff Messer, Jones was more a pace setter this year and it lead to a record-breaking performance in the 1600 and added two more state titles to her resume.
The old approach worked just fine as a state cross country title along with the 800 and 1600 titles last season would attest.
And yet Jones' made a change.
“I used to rely on my kick so much last year, go hard the last 100,” she said. “My coach told me be the Prefontaine and push the first half. I wanted to break the pack of the mentality in the first half of the race and it was good because the last lap of the race I was crawling.”
Jones won the 1600 with a time of 4 minutes and 48.71 seconds to break mark of 4:49.11 set in 1999 by Mountain Pointe’s Sara Gorton Slattery, who was in attendance.
To win the title Jones beat Lauren Ellsworth for the title, but couldn’t do the same in the 800 as Ellsworth set the state record with a time of 2:07.61.
Jones finished in second with a time of 2:10.61, which was off of her season best time of 2:09.24.
While she wasn’t able to pull off the tri-fecta, winning the 1600 and 3200 in a school record time of 10:34.16 after missing about four weeks of competing because of stress fracture, Jones still had a terrific season that could have been more frustrating if she wasn’t able to return to form after the injury.
“She showed courage and growth,” Messer said. “We are focused on performance and she continued to shine in a difficult time.”
Jones said the time off re-energized her approach once she returned for the Arcadia meet last month.
“Right now it means more than anything,” she said of setting the state record. “I had rude awakening with the injury and really made me appreciate running.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.