Since arriving at St. Catharine College as track/cross country coach a little more than a year ago Blake Jones has made quite an impact. He not only has built the Patriot program from scratch but has quickly become recognized as an elite runner throughout the region.
Jones, 29, has found time to continue his training while also building a competitive program at St. Catharine. Over the last three months he has won three races and been among the top finishers in the first two events of Louisville’s Triple Crown of Running.
In January, Jones won the Frostbite 4-Miler and followed that in February with a first place finish in the Snowman Shuffle 5-K, both races in the Polar Bear Grand Prix in Louisville.
In a busy month of March, Jones won the Emerald Miles 5-K in Newport where he ran a 15:29, breaking his own course record of 15:42. He also finished 10th in the Anthem 5-K (3rd in his age group) and 15th in the Rodes City Run (2nd in his age group) in the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
A strained calf will keep him out of the third race of the Triple Crown, the Papa John’s 10-Miler, but Jones already has his sights set on the Columbus Marathon in October. That obviously requires many miles on the road as he prepares for the 26.2 mile trek. But the Patriot coach has found time for his own training while also continuing to build the St. Catharine program.
“We had two guys on the men’s team when I got here,” said Jones who ran for Shawnee State University and then was an assistant coach for the Bears before coming to St. Catharine. “Now we have about 25 athletes on the men’s and women’s teams. Nearly all of them are underclassmen so we have a good group to build around for next year.”
And while Jones is building a program, he is also building confidence in the athletes he currently has on the roster. That is evidenced by the gains made in just the short time he has been at St. Catharine.
“Having him as the coach has really motivated me,” said Troy Mattingly, a Patriot sophomore and graduate of DeSales High School. “He runs with me in training and he won’t let me slack off.”
Jones participates in nearly all of the practice runs, especially during cross country season when he will sometimes log 12 miles or more a day between the team practice and his own training. He sees the chance to bond with his athletes during those runs.
“You really get to know your athletes during that time,” Jones said. “They will talk to you more during those runs and if they need something that is a good time to find out.”
That relationship, coupled with Jones’ knowledge of the sport, has allowed the program to grow quickly and become competitive in many events. That success has not gone unnoticed by the administration at St. Catharine.
“Blake has done a good job in a short time,” said athletic director Mike Doig. “The athletes respect him because he sets an example for them. His work ethic is great and that has obviously rubbed off on the people he has recruited.”
While Jones continues to build the program, St. Catharine continues to build the athletic facility for the runners. A new track was laid out last fall and now awaits the rubberized surface and field event areas to be completed.
And upon that completion, the St. Catharine track and field program will be on solid ground in all respects.