Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Distance runners, especially those with All-America pedigrees, don’t typically fall into a program’s lap. But the University of Iowa was on the receiving end of a gem when senior Adam Jones, with one season of track and field eligibility remaining, enrolled in May 2016.
Jones spent four years at Samford University, where as a sophomore in 2014, he ran 3:44 in the 1,500-meters and advanced to the NCAA Championship semifinals in Eugene, Oregon. Jones finished 18th in 3:47.40 to earn honorable mention All-America.
That was followed by a string of frustrating, pesky injuries, so Jones, who lives in Phoenix City, Alabama, attended high school in Columbus, Georgia, and went to college in Birmingham, Alabama, packed his bags for the Midwest. He had been in Kentucky a couple times and Indiana once, but Jones admitted that he couldn’t tell exactly where Iowa was located.
“It’s exciting to be able to go to surrounding states and see things I have never seen before,” Jones said. “I have never been in a place that had all these cornfields. For people that live in Iowa it might be repetitive, but I absolutely love it. I love being able to run on dirt roads and see cornfields and wind turbines because I have never seen them before.”
It might be a different part of the country, but Jones’ early results on the track are consistent with his All-America résumé. On Jan. 7 at the Border Battle, he won the mile in 4:13.47. Two weeks later at the Larry Wieczorek Invitational, Jones stepped beyond his distance comfort zone and was runner-up to Florida State’s Harry Mulenga in the 3K in 8:21.49.
“I want to become the best runner I can be in every event group,” Jones said. “I don’t want to be that runner that is only good at one event. I want to be able to go up and down and be competitive in everything I do.”
Jones has PRs of 1:50.76 in the 800, 3:44 in the 1,500, and 4:08 in the mile. He was the Southern Conference champion as a sophomore in the indoor mile and anchored the Bulldogs’ distance medley relay to first place.
Jones is particular about where he runs (soft surfaces versus hard) and what foods fuel his body. You will find him training on grass or country roads nearly 50 percent of the time, and if he is out for lunch, the bacon cheeseburger gets shoved aside in favor of grilled chicken and green beans.
“It is hard for athletes to maintain health at all points of the season and running on soft surfaces aids that, especially being a fifth-year, I have so many miles logged on my body,” Jones said.
“We have a lot of talent on the team and I don’t think people realize how talented our distance team is. I don’t care what the university was known for in the past; even though I am a transfer, you can be a great distance runner at Iowa. If you stick to the plan and believe in yourself, you can do great things at Iowa. If I can influence one person to believe in themselves and work hard and run to the best of their ability, then it will be worth the stay.” — Adam Jones
“Diet-wise I am not one who counts calories or the amount of fat. I try to be logical when it comes to eating.”
Iowa distance coach Randy Hasenbank is Jones’ seventh coach since high school. He knew of Jones when he was head coach at Loyola University (Chicago).
“We were always preparing 800-meter guys and milers, so (Jones’) name came up on the list of people you would have to get through to get to the national meet as a top competitor,” Hasenbank said.
Instead of finding ways to defeat Jones, Hasenbank is now making him faster.
“When I stepped on campus, we had a pretty nice athlete to work with,” Hasenbank said.
And one with decent range. At the NCAA Regional Preview cross country meet on Oct. 1, Jones ran unattached and won the 8-kilometer race by 14 seconds over Iowa’s Daniel Soto.
“He is very, very fit and he beat our entire roster that day in the home cross country meet,” Hasenbank said. “That bodes well and speaks to his ability and fitness.”
Jones notices differences and similarities between life at Samford and Iowa. Samford is a private university with nearly 5,500 students and Iowa is a public university with 33,000 students. But the people of Alabama and Iowa are comparable.
“It’s a good eye-opener with a different type of campus and people,” Jones said. “A lot of people in the Midwest are genuinely nice and people-friendly, similar to people in the South.”
When Jones was young he told himself he was going to participate in a sport in college, but he didn’t know what sport.
“Ever since I got in college, the only thing I’m exceptionally passionate about is the sport of track and distance running.” Jones said.
That feeds into his long-term goal of becoming a running coach. Jones is an undergraduate student and will complete 30 hours here by the time he receives a communications degree from Iowa in May. He will then decide if he wants to continue running or begin coaching.
Many factors go into being a good coach, said Jones, who continually questions the reasoning behind doing certain workouts. He said his inquisitiveness might drive Hasenbank mad, but he is trying to stockpile knowledge for when he coaches. Listening to Jones, he appears on a fast track to a successful career.
“We have a lot of talent on the team and I don’t think people realize how talented our distance team is,” Jones said. “I don’t care what the university was known for in the past; even though I am a transfer, you can be a great distance runner at Iowa. If you stick to the plan and believe in yourself, you can do great things at Iowa.
“If I can influence one person to believe in themselves and work hard and run to the best of their ability, then it will be worth the stay.”
The Hawkeyes host the Black and Gold Premier on Jan. 27-28 at the University of Iowa Recreation Building.