Prep girls track and field: Technique spurring Tumwater's Jones in fastest event


SHELTON – The running form is smooth. The sprinting ability is among the best this spring in Class 2A. The times have been top of the line.

As Tumwater High School’s Ava Jones’ junior season is unfolding, there has been one drastic difference in her results. No longer is she a middling of the pack finisher in the 100-meter dash.

Now, she’s a bonafide favorite.

“The 100 is not just ‘Oh, you’re fast,’” Jones said. “Everything has to be perfect in it. Just constantly working on my blocks, making sure my drive leg, I’m driving forward and having a drive phase.”

The stellar start continued on a wet Saturday afternoon.

Jones went a perfect 4-for-4 in her events at the 64th rendition of the Shelton Invite at Jack Street Field, claiming the 100 and 200 and running a leg on the Thunderbirds’ victorious 400 and 1,600-meter relays.

Those wins and others allowed Tumwater to take third in the team race with 75.5 points behind Central Kitsap (92) and Olympia (88). Black Hills tied for 17th with 10 points while Onalaska and Rochester each garnered at least one place-winner to register team points.

“Putting our kids in a situation where they got to go out and compete,” T-Birds head coach Jordan Stray said. “Getting the experience of a tight competition and seeing how we fair and come out in the end.”

The two-time defending 2A state champions understand the pressure of three-peating and having a target on their backs. Still, they aren’t shying away from it.

“We’re so upbeat and happy during practices,” middle distance star Reese Heryford said. “We just want to be better. Our times are better than they were last year.”

The majority of the points have come from Jones, Heryford and Annabelle Clapp in the individual events plus all three relays continuously churning out fast times.

That trifecta have been together for three years building chemistry in the 1,600 relay. Cassidy Hedin is in all three relays and freshman Ashlyn Hufana is in two of them. Hedin and Heryford are the constants in those three teams.

“The bond we all have with each other,” Jones said. “We never get (into) fights. We know what each other’s strong suits are.”

Jones has put in a lot of work on coming out of the blocks in the 100. It has paid off recently with a lifetime best last week at the GearUP Eason Invite in 12.16 seconds and in the rain on Saturday, was the only one to break 13 seconds.

“She is starting to understand the world of track better and better every year,” Jones said. “She gets in her lane, eyes are set and ready to go. That drive is getting stronger.”

The state runner-up in the 200 and a medalist in the 100 a year ago, Jones isn’t ruling out contending for two individual championships.

Neither is her coach.

“Right up there, could be a contender,” Stray said. “It is a day-by-day thing. Staying healthy, keeping the routines we have set in place. Everyone has good days, everyone has down days. It is all about the tapering to make sure we’re peaking at the right time.” 

Heryford triumphed in the open 400 in just over a minute and ran the third leg on Tumwater’s winning 800 relay. Clapp was fourth in the 800 in a new season-best time of 2:20.20 while McKayla Clary placed third in the javelin.

Tumwater hosts Shaner Invite next week before the big meets begin with league, districts and state.

“Just knowing we have that competition, we can pull through and do (well),” Heryford said.

Black Hills’ Carmen Williams claimed the discus with a winning throw of 109-10. It was the first time she’s gone over the 105 mark since her PR of 114 at the South Sound Classic last month.

To Williams, it was a sigh of relief.

“I actually was so surprised, I didn’t even mean to,” she said. “It is really hard to throw in the rain, it just slips right out. I know I can do better.”

The senior was in third after the three preliminary throws and the first time she stepped into the ring for the finals, she made her best heave.

Her most daunting meets are ahead of her and Williams is aiming to avoid a repeat of last spring.

She had pocketed three straight top-three finishes entering the league meet, then nosedived to under 100 feet at league and under 90 feet at districts.

“Making sure I’m healthy (and) I had broken shoes,” Williams said. “Making sure everything is OK.”

Williams admitted she’s in a better head space now.

“When I get in my head too much, I completely fail,” she added. “When I’m relaxed, (it is) smooth sailing. Not thinking about every single thing too much; not critiquing myself.”

Onalaska’s Kiley Talley unleashed a personal best throw of 34-09.25 in the shot put to take fifth and Rochester’s Merecedies Dupont placed sixth in the open 400.