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Jones competing in track championship

NATCHEZ — At 5-foot-3, many don’t expect Ke’Airra Jones to be much of a high jumper at first glance.

But the current Southern Mississippi and former Natchez High track star uses that misconception as motivation.

Jones, a redshirted junior, will compete in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship Friday in College Station, Texas. She is currently splitting time between there and Houston preparing for the meet.

“I’ve always been the shortest person, so it’s pretty crazy (that I can jump as high as I can),” Jones said.

“That’s something that’s always kept me motivated. A lot of times people will see me and say I can’t jump because I’m the smallest one. At the end of the day, though, they’ll always respect me because, even though I was the shortest, I could always compete against any level of people.”

Jones qualified for the championship after clearing a height of 1.82 meters, moving her to 11th in the nation in the high jump.

“This is my second year in nationals, and it’s one of those things where you always want to go back after going the first time,” she said.

“Last year I was star struck and just happy to be there, but this year I want to go even further.”

Jones is aiming for All-American status, which she barely missed last year in the indoor meet, she said.

“I cleared the same height as everyone last year, but I had more misses, so I didn’t get All-American,” she said.

“It would be a great honor for not just me, but my family. It would get them, Southern Miss and Natchez High School on the map.”

While in high school, Jones broke the state record in high jump, and credited NHS track coach Larry Wesley for pushing her hard while she was still developing.

“He’s a great coach. He’s not going to baby you, he’s going to bring out the best in you,” Jones said.

“Me and him had a crazy relationship, and most people didn’t understand it, but he took the time to get to know me. He understood the potential I had and what I could be, and he kept me at it.”

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