Dani Jones is receiving plenty of mail in the form of recruiting letters these days because of her running ability.
It never gets old, but when a different piece of parcel showed up recently it explained why so many colleges are showing interest in the Desert Vista distance runner.
Golden tickets are always special.
Jones qualified for the Dream Mile in New York this weekend. It is one of those events that the elite hope to compete in during their careers. Qualification comes with a golden ticket citing the holder as an official qualifier.
It’s a goal Jones has had for awhile, and managed to accomplish it by winning the Golden South Classic in Orlando on May 24, but it never hit home until she had that golden ticket in her hand.
“Right after the race you get asked how it feels to qualify, and I went with it and answered, but I never really thought about it that much, even on the plane ride home,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect, and I have never been to New York.
“Then I got my golden ticket in the mail and it was one of the coolest things I ever received for running.”
As accomplished as Jones was during the school season, she had to make a special trip to Orlando in order to have a chance to qualify for the Dream Mile.
“I went all that way, it was kind of a risk, but this is one of those things I’ve known about ever since my freshman year,” she said. “I really wanted to go, but figured it was a long shot back then. As the years have gone by I’ve gotten closer and closer.
“It’s such a weird feeling because I like to look at national rankings and big races on line. I always saw others qualifying for the Dream Mile and I couldn’t believe the times they were running.”
Jones qualified by posting a time of 4 minutes and 50.49 seconds to edge Herriman (Utah) runner Lucy Biles by five tenths of a second. She had to win it in order to earn the golden ticket.
“She was one 10th of a second off her best time and ran a smart race,” Thunder coach Jeff Messer said. “They were focused on the getting the victory and no one really went out strong, but it was quick on the back end.”
The event takes place during the Adidas Grand Prix in New York City at Ichan Stadium inside Randall Island Park on Saturday and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network starting at 1 p.m. MST. The girls Dream Mile is scheduled around 12:20 p.m. so it won’t be broadcast live.
The field will include 10 other prep runners as they compete alongside dozens of Olympic gold medalists and World Champions, including Jenn Suhr, Valerie Adams and Jenny Simpson.
“The goal is to run the best possible race, continue with the process and set her personal best,” Messer said. “I think she is healthy and has the right frame of mind to do just that.”
It’s a chance to finish the season strong after she had some physical struggles during the track season because of a stress fracture. It kept Jones from reaching all of her time goals, but didn’t keep her from winning the 1,600 and 3,200 runs.
“I didn’t hit the marks I was going for, but I am definitely grateful for what I accomplished,” said Jones, who missed about four weeks. “I was frustrated, but the work I put in before and after got me through.”
Jones, who won the cross country title and finished second in the 800 at state track, will be joined in New York by her mom, Messer and possibly her dad and sister, Baylee.
Baylee was supposed to run in the New Balance Nationals this weekends, but had her appendix removed recently and now may join Dani in the Big Apple.
However she performs at Dream Mile it sets her up for a great senior year as cross country will be here before long.
Jones is one of the top recruits for the 2015 class and she hopes next year is relaxed and fun.
“It was overwhelming at first,” Jones said of the recruiting process. “It’s under control now. I hope to take some visits, but my schools are all over the place. I don’t have a top five yet and I am working on a top 10.
“Once I’m committed I can really start running for fun.”
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