Sheretta Jones: Finishing the race strong
Underneath the physical strength that senior sprinter Sheretta Jones possesses over her competitors, Sheretta also has a mental attitude that pushes her farther than one might expect. This attitude to take on more and succeed in everything has proved itself when you look at Jones' sterling track resume. NCAA champion, All-American, two-time Big 12 champion, six-time All-Big 12, NCAA and Texas record- holder in the distance medley relay, just to name a few highlights.
Moreover, beyond her track accomplishments are another set of achievements in the classroom. The epitome of a student-athletes, Jones also will receive her degree in the highly-competitive major of business administration at the end of the May.
Her collegiate and high school All-American honors go hand-in-hand with her valedictorian honor coming out of high school, where she was ranked No. 1 academically at Houston's Forest Brook HS. Add to that the Academic All-Big 12 First Team honors and College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District plaudits, and you easily see that Sheretta's future plans not only include a professional career, but plans for graduate school as well.
"Academically, I've achieved more than I ever thought I could achieve. When I got [to Texas], I went above and beyond those obstacles to achieve more than I expected," said Jones. "But, it wasn't as hard to achieve, academically as it has been athletically, to be honest. I have to work so much harder to earn athletic accolades. I can't really say which recognition I enjoy the most, or which one is better. Here at UT, you are on a pedestal in your sport and in the classroom, and being a Longhorn student-athlete just makes you work even harder to do more than you've done already."
One of the biggest struggles athletes face when they arrive on the UT campus is balancing the heavy demands of school and sports. However, Jones has been in the rhythm of multi-tasking for many years.
"I've done this [juggled school and track] for so long, ever since I was nine, so it's kind of second nature," she explained. "The question which would be hard to answer would be how would I balance not having track in my life, not having the two to compliment each other. Doing both doesn't even affect me and I don't even think twice about it," Jones.
While Sheretta may make it seem easy and effortless, all of her successes in life come after years of hard work. Jones got an early start in athletics when she joined a summer track program at the age of nine.
"I started running when I was nine in the summer track program where a lot of us come from. My first track team was Track Houston, and eventually I maneuvered up to run with Team Texas and finished my summer track career with the Wings Track Club," said Jones.
Though track has remained in Jones' life ever since that summer, it took her a few more years to discover the opportunities track presented.
"In addition to running track, I played basketball and ran a little cross country in high school. My first love was basketball, but the high school I went to, [Forest Brook], wasn't heavily recruited for that sport. I was better off coming on a track scholarship, so I then dedicated all of my focus to track and field," said Jones.
This shift in priorities proved useful when Texas and head coach Bev Kearney came calling offered a scholarship, to which Jones was eager to sign.
"They had the best academic and athletic combination that was best suited for me. It wasn't too far from home, and there were two big No. 1's facing me. My major program was ranked number one nationally in UT's business school, and Texas had the number one women's track team, so why not?" Sheretta added.
And she has not looked back since.
"I've climbed the ranks since coming to UT," Jones explained. "I started out my freshman year as a predominant quarter miler. Sophomore year I was a half miler, and just last year and this year, I'm a 400 meter hurlder.
"I think [hurdling] is one of the most difficult races to run, especially the 400 meter hurdles, and it gives me a great challenge. I'm always up for a challenge, which it why I took up the event my junior year."
As for her future plans, Jones quickly says they are, "To win our third NCAA Championship in a row!". After that, Jones plans to return to Dell Computers, Inc., in nearly Round Rock, where she will serve an internship for the second consecutive summer.
"I'm also applying to graduate school, so upon acceptance to graduate school, I would start classes in August," noted Jones. "I'll possibly venture into a professional track career if it's feasible and if a contract is available once I graduate and my eligibility is done."
And to get to that stage, being under Coach Kearney's tutelage has been another plus for Jones. Sheretta has watched Kearney diligently work her way back to independence after Kearney was involved in a December tragic car accident during Jones' freshman year. That crash took the lives of two of the five passengers in the car, and Kearney faced months and years of rehabilitation from a spinal injury and paralysis.
For Jones, Kearney has become one of her largest sources of motivation.
"Coach Kearney is inspiration. She was one of the main reasons I came to Texas, because I enjoyed her coaching style and I liked the program she had developed here at UT," Jones remarked.
"Since her accident, we've all been behind her in her recovery, but for her to be as emotionally and physically stable as she is, coming back after what she's been through, it just makes us want to aspire to different, or higher, heights. When someone has gone through something like that, you can't complain about what you're going through because someone else is feeling worse than you are, every day."
Never one to stop learning, it could also be said that these four years have been one long learning experience for Jones. Not only has she learned perseverance and benefits of hard work, but Jones has discovered the secret to success.
"It might seem cheesy, but it is true - anything is possible," Jones added. "Even with the things that you think are impossible, it's better that you go towards those things, because if everyone thinks something is impossible, it makes it easier to achieve if you ignore them and persevere yourself," explained Jones.
As she steps foot into her last Texas Relays this weekend (April 5-8) on UT's home track at Myers Stadium, Jones has nothing but fond memories of the meet.
"The most memorable Texas Relays was during my sophomore year when I was the leadoff leg for the distance medley relay that broke the NCAA, meet, and school record," recalled Jones.
Beyond the exciting finishes and possible falling of records, Jones wants the meet to be as fun for the crowd as it has been for her these years. Jones and the Longhorns will join nearly 3,800 high school, college and open division competitors from all over the United States at the prestigious Relays. The event has been a sellout (20,000-plus) at Myers in the past on Saturday's final day of competition.
"It's always great to break records, and everyone wants their name in the record books, but I think for each Texas Relays our main focus is to give the crowd a show," said Jones. "Our biggest team goal is to sweep everything we run, which is probably any team's goal, but for us to come into Texas Relays and to win everything that we step foot on, that's something we thrive for and what we get joy from it."
And, Jones the scholar-athlete is quick to give credit for that drive and joy back to her Longhorn family - the track and field team and staff.
"The track team is my family, my home away from home," Sheretta concluded. "We rely on each other for a lot of stuff, emotionally, spiritually, physically. We've developed that family-type atmosphere, and we've used it on and off the track. The chemistry the team has, this year and in other previous years, is wonderful. It makes you feel so much more comfortable and confident to do what you do."
Yet, the Longhorn tracksters undoubtedly draw comfort and confidence from Jones herself, the epitome of a standout student-athlete.