Jones' small choice is big news for Key Runner could take Eagles past owls

November 13, 1992|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

Imagine the pressure that would be on Francis Scott Key's super freshman cross country runner, Ali Jones, if she were a hot-shot football or basketball player.

Jones lives on the dividing line between Key and Westminster High and could attend either school.

The natural inclination would be to think Jones would choose the higher-profile world that Westminster has to offer.

But the 5-foot-4, 95-pound Nebraska native doesn't believe bigger is always better.

"I went to Key because it is smaller," said Jones. "I'd get lost at Westminster High. Out there [Aurora, Neb., where Jones lived until the fifth grade] my class would have 100 people in it. At Key I have 150 to 200. That's plenty big enough for me."

Even though Jones competes in the relatively low-key sport of cross country, there have been attempts to entice her into going to Westminster High.

The freshman, who won the Carroll County girls' cross country championship race Oct. 30 at Western Maryland College, said her youth track coach, Jim Shank, tried to talk her into attending Westminster. Shank coached Jones in the now-defunct Fleet Feet track program in Westminster.

Jones' mother, Kathy, said, "Some girls from Westminster asked her if she wanted to go to Westminster."

All pleas went for naught.

"I decided before the ninth grade to go to Key, and I'm going to stay there until I graduate," said Jones.

Those words were enough to make Key cross country coach Jim Bullock want to jump up and dance around the halls.

With Jones on board for three more years, Bullock's dream of ousting Westminster as the Carroll County girls team champion is alive.

His No. 1 runner has been clocked in a personal best of 20 minutes, 20 seconds in her first year of competition.

Bullock said he realistically can see Jones getting down to the "low 19s" when she is a senior.

That would mean Jones is a virtual lock to repeat as the county girls champion the next three years. So what has made Jones such an early bloomer?

"She has a slight body, works very hard, comes from a very competitive family and asks questions about the sport," said Bullock.

Also, Jones has been around horse racing all her life and has the innate desire to win.

Her father, Jack, has raised and trained horses in Nebraska to run at small tracks in that state. He is now the manager of Ben Ray horse farms near Westminster.

"That background plays a little part in Ali's success," said Kathy Jones. "She knows the importance of getting in shape and stretching before and after a race."

But Key's major hope for the future believes her success is based on six years of running track at the Junior Olympic level and for the Hershey (Pa.) Chocolate program.

"The coaches constantly drilled me on form," said Jones. "And my brother and father told me to do my best. Now I'm in shape and ready to run cross country and track."

And she might have to be prepared to say no a few more times to overtures from Westminster High.

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