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Keeping up with Jones

It hasn't been easy for the Crescenta Valley product's competition this year, as Neil Jones is having a huge year for Glendale Community College

April 28, 2011|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com

If all had gone according to plan, Neil Jones wouldn't be at Glendale Community College this year. He likely would be several times zones away right now and certainly wouldn't be spending the spring becoming a rising star for the Vaqueros men's track and field team.

But plans often change and for Jones, a Crescenta Valley High graduate, that meant delaying the two-year period of missionary service that he has spent much of his young life preparing for as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I wasn't ready then," says Jones, a sophomore and returning track athlete. "I was a little immature and kind of didn't know what I wanted, but I think I found my stride this year."

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Jones, who originally planned to leave for his mission after completing his freshman year at Glendale, says he is fully prepared to perform his service now and he is set to leave for Siberia in June. But coming to terms with his calling wasn't the only breakthrough Jones made during his sophomore year, as he seems to be hitting his full stride on the track, as well.

"We thought he was going to leave and go on his mission, but he didn't feel like he was ready," Vaqueros Coach Eddie Lopez said. "He decided to stay and I'm happy he did because he's really just developing into one of the top junior college middle-distance runners in the state, probably in the country."

Jones will look to prove just that in the Vaqueros' biggest meets of the season over the next several weeks, beginning with today's Western State Conference Championships at Bakersfield College and continuing through the Southern California Championships and quite possibly the state meet.

He's already qualified in the 800 meters and the 1,500 for the WSC finals, where he will try to continue the stellar season he's enjoyed thus far in both.

"I want to make it to state, I'm pretty sure I will," Jones says. "If I can win a title, that would be great, too."

Jones currently owns the third-best time among all California Community College athletes in the 1,500 (3 minutes 54.09 seconds) and the fourth-best time in the state in the 800 (1:53.07).

After making it to the Southern California Championships in the 800 last year, when his best time of the season was a 1:56.19 at the WSC finals, Jones has gone under that mark four times this season. He only ran the 1,500 five times as a freshman, but never came close to breaking 4:00, whereas this year, he has done so seven out of eight times.

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