Tyren Jones rushed for 4,220 yards and 51 touchdowns during his junior and senior seasons at Walton and signed a scholarship to play at Alabama, setting a pretty high athletic standard for his sister to reach.
Tia, though, is charting her own path in a different sport, having recently been named USA Track and Field Athlete of the Week for her performance at the USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in Greensboro, N.C.
Jones, a seventh-grader at Dickerson Middle School, competed in the 13-14 age group and swept the 100- and 200-meter hurdles, setting national and Junior Olympic records in both events. She won the 100 hurdles in a personal-best 13.53 seconds, breaking the mark she set in preliminary rounds.
Jones won the 200 hurdles in 25.80, just below her national and Junior Olympic record of 25.34 that she set in the first round. She also placed second in the 200 dash in 24.02.
“I like running track,” said Jones, who turns 13 on Sept. 8. “I’m good at it and I can meet lots of new people. It’s been a good experience for me. It gives me a chance to travel and to go to different places, too.”
Jones began her track career when she was 8 and has gotten better over time. She saw high school athletes jumping over hurdles and decided that was the sport she wanted to do. Her father and coach, Tyronne, had her practice the event for months before he allowed her to finally compete when she turned 9.
“She had to get her fundamentals down,” Tyronne Jones said.
Since then, Tia’s track and field career has taken off. Jones started in AAU events with the Heat Track Club in east Cobb before her father left to start Full Throttle Elite Track Club in January.
Jones’ 2013 season also included winning the pentathlon at the Georgia USATF Association Championships and Region 4 USATF Championships. During the winter indoor season, she also placed first in the 60 hurdles in an event at Clemson.
“The pentathlon is fun because there are more events in it,” Jones said. “The hurdles are fun, too. They’re all just events that I do.”
Jones credits her father for much of her success. A standout college player at Grambling, Tyronne Jones enjoyed a successful career in the Arena League Football as a wide receiver and return specialist.
What Tyronne Jones learned from his training was information he eventually put to use in helping his children excel.
“I wanted to know how I could adapt the training I went through to them,” the elder Jones said. “We did all of those drills as professionals to get better and stronger and faster. Those speed drills helped me.
“So, I changed them some to help my athletes get stronger and faster. When I train (Tia), I train her to be an all-around and strong athlete. I didn’t know which event she’d love, but she loved the pentathlon because it had a lot of events — 100 hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put and 800-meter run — in one day.”
During her time with the Heat Track Club, Tia Jones became a 10-time AAU national champion, owning several national records in sprints, hurdles and other events. Her other personal career best marks include 11.87 (100), 23.81 (200), 5 feet, 7 inches (high jump) and 18-3 (long jump).
“I’m always hoping to drop my times even more and get better at what I do,” said Jones, who listed Allyson Felix, Usain Bolt and Lolo Jones as her favorite track and field athletes.
Getting better marks is something Tyronne Jones sees Tia achieving sooner rather than later.
“Her mindset isn’t to just be average,” he said. “She doesn’t want to lose and takes instruction well because she believes it will make her better. She’s very coachable because she wants to be the best.”
During the offseason, Tia Jones works on gymnastics tumbling until the indoor track and field season begins in November. Another one of the goals she hopes to accomplish in the future is to beat her brother in a race.
“It’s amazing to see my brother do what he does, and he’s so good at it,” Jones said. “He inspires me to get better.
“We race each other all the time at 100 and 200 meters. He wins, but I still race him and I hope I can beat him one day.”