Big Piney runner excels in cross-country

Courtesy photo Big Piney junior Muriel Jones approaches the finish line at the Liberty Bell Invitational in Littleton, Colo., on Sept. 7.

Jones places 2nd at Regional 4A track meet

Big Piney High School

junior Muriel Jones is making a mark as

a distance runner in Wyoming, Colorado,

Utah and Idaho.

Over the weekend, Jones placed second

at the 4A West Cross-Country Conference

Championships in Casper, clocking in at 18

minutes, 33.07 seconds, procuring her a spot

on the All-Conference list. On Saturday,

Oct. 26, Jones has the chance to medal again

at the State Cross-Country Meet hosted in

Afton.

This fall, Jones joined the Jackson Hole

High School cross-country team, the “smallest

4A school in the state,” said Jackson’s

Head Coach Cross-Country Coach Jeff Brazil.

Despite the school’s size, Jackson sends

its harriers to meets all across the Intermountain

West, giving Jones the opportunity

to compete with runners from some of

the largest programs in the country. All of

this experience will put Jones into a competitive

position for the spring outdoor track

season with the Punchers.

“(Jones) loves running and loves to compete,”

said Big Piney Head Track Coach

Jess Nugent. “She has dedicated herself to

becoming one of the best distance runners

in our state.”

Jones made the Wyoming All-State roster

in outdoor track last spring, winning

second-place medals in the 1600-meter and

3200-meter runs in 3A competition. Her

performance caught the eye of Coach Brazil.

“I watched Muriel run the state track

meet last spring and was impressed by her

grit,” he said. “She looked like a pretty raw

runner with a huge heart for competition as

she tried to run with Sydney Thorvaldson of

Rawlins.”

Before regionals, Jones was the secondranked

runner in the Wyoming 4A conference,

Brazil said, only a few seconds behind

Abigail Whitman of Laramie. Statewide,

Jones is the fourth fastest harrier.

The roughly one-and-a-half-hour trip between

Big Piney and Jackson makes it difficult

for Jones to practice with the team on

a daily basis. Jones does most of her workouts,

including strength and speed drills, at

home in Big Piney, said Brazil. Jones practices

with family and Big Piney’s long distance

coach Terry Cain.

Jones met the team at their pre-season

camp hosted in Garden City, Utah, in August,

Brazil said. Otherwise, Jones typically

spends time with the team at meets or once

Big Piney runner excels in cross-country

Jones places 2nd at Regional 4A track meet

By Robert Galbreath, [email protected]

Courtesy photo

Big Piney junior Muriel Jones approaches the finish line at the Liberty Bell Invitational in Littleton, Colo., on Sept. 7.

a week in pre-meet practices. This was a

challenge at first, Brazil said, since he believes

cross-country is more of a team sport

than most people think. Undeterred by these

challenges, Brazil said Jones and the top five

girls on Jackson’s varsity squad have really

started to mesh.

“Athletically, they are a perfect fit,” he

said. “They train at similar paces and run

in ways that their separate strengths support

each other. It is what has made them

among the best teams in the state regardless

of class.”

Jones’ hard work ethic this season and

consistent progress has made her an anchor

for the team, Brazil continued.

“Muriel helps set expectations that the

other girls on the team now are working toward

in the races,” he said. “They are all really

close in ability, so the others now have

to show that in competition. The other thing

I like with Muriel is her even-keel approach

to races and practices. Sometimes (runners)

can get really emotional and freaked out in

racing. Jones is a good grounding force.”

In addition to competing in Wyoming,

Jones raced at cross-country meets in

Denver, Ogden, Utah and Boise, Idaho, this

year. The travel across long distances to

compete in much larger communities outside

Wyoming exposes the runners to a “whole

new level of competition,” Brazil said.

“In most small Wyoming towns, there

isn’t the large number of kids competing

(in distance running) that we see in bigger

schools,” he explained. “I think it really

boosts their confidence and engagement in

the sport to be a part of this scene. Doing

well in the midst of some of these incredible

athletes in these big meets should allow

(Jones) to feel really good about what she

is doing and motivating her to work even

harder in her workouts for the week.”

Back in Big Piney, Coach Nugent is already

looking forward to what Jones will

accomplish this spring with the Punchers

and is avidly following Jones’ cross-country

achievements this fall.

“We are excited to follow her on this

journey and excited for the outdoor season,”

she said. “I can’t say enough about how

proud I am of Muriel’s accomplishments.”

Season highlights

Jones started the competitive season at

the Weber State Invitational in Ogden, Utah,

on Aug. 30. Teams from Ogden, Provo and

other communities in the greater Salt Lake

City area raced in the competition. Jones

took 34th place in a field of 238 runners and

a time of 19:59.60 on the three-mile course.

On Sept. 7, Jones hit the big leagues,

competing at the Liberty Bell Invitational in

Littleton, Colo. The course was a bit longer

than at Weber State, a true 5-kilometer race

(roughly 3.11 miles). Hundreds of athletes

from across Colorado’s Front Range competed,

including racers from schools with

senior classes larger than the population of

Big Piney and Marbleton combined. Jones

improved to finish in 11th place, clocking

in at 19:41.10.

At the Wyoming State Preview Meet

hosted by Afton on Sept. 14, Jones placed

sixth out of 99 runners with a time on the

5-kilometer course of 21:03.60.

Jones real triumph came when the team

traveled to the Bob Firman XC Invitational

in Boise, Idaho. Jones won the girls’ varsity

division, outpacing runners from across

Idaho and Utah. Her time, 18:53.80, was a

personal record for the season.

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