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WILL TO WIN: Natchez High’s Daryl Jones runs in his father’s memory

Natchez High School’s Daryl Jones runs the one-mile and two-mile races for the school’s track and field team. He started running to stay in shape for basketball, but has since become the school’s best distance runner. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Natchez High School’s Daryl Jones runs the one-mile and two-mile races for the school’s track and field team. He started running to stay in shape for basketball, but has since become the school’s best distance runner. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — A day before Natchez High School’s district meet at home on April 17, Daryl Jones Jr. was not at practice. Jones hadn’t been to practice the entire week for that matter, as he and his family were grieving over the loss of Daryl Jones.

After his father died from cancer on April 7, Jones was with his family, and at the funeral last Sunday, Jones talked to Natchez track coach Larry Wesley about competing.

“He handled the funeral very well,” Wesley said. “Me and Coach (Mike) Martin were out there, and he was suffering a little bit. (Track) is an outlet for him. I told him, ‘Come run. Run for your daddy’s memory.’”

But Wesley didn’t see Jones the rest of the week, not until the day of the district meet. Jones approached his coach and told him he would compete in the one-mile and two-mile.

“He loves competing, and that’s the best thing about him,” Wesley said. “I didn’t put his name down. I was thinking, ‘He’s probably not going to run.’ But he came up to me and he said, ‘Coach, I have to run. Put my name down.’”

Jones not only competed, but he won both the one-mile and two-mile races. After contemplating whether or not he should compete at all, Jones was glad he ran, and despite missing practice, his desire to make his father proud willed him to victory.

“It just made me go harder,” Jones said. “It helped me go all out. There was no way I was going to lose.”

What was first an avenue to stay in shape for basketball evolved into a form of a competitive release. Jones first started competing in cross country as a sophomore when his basketball coaches encouraged him to do so to stay in shape. The rest was history.

“Once I tried it, I found out I was good at it, so I stayed with it,” Jones said.

He transitioned into track as a senior, to Wesley’s delight, and in two meets — one in Woodville and the other in Natchez — Jones won both two-mile events.

“He’s a breath of fresh air,” Wesley said. “He’s a shot in the arm. It’s been a long time since we’ve had someone who could run distance and be affective with it.”

Natchez will host a regional track meet today starting at 9:30 a.m. Laurel, West Jones, South Jones and Wayne County will all be in attendance, and Jones will be competing in both the one-mile and two-mile again. Putting himself out there, Wesley predicted Jones to place in the top four to qualify for south state. Jones, on the other hand, is setting his sights higher.

“I really just want to be the best at what I do, and I like competing,” Jones said. “I don’t like losing, so it would be good to go undefeated in the two-mile this year.”

 

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