Jones hopes to build strong foundation for women’s cross country in first year

Two months into his first season at Illinois, women’s cross-country head coach Scott Jones’ coaching style of open communication has been a welcome change for the young team.

“He’s been able to get the team on a carefree level that has been able to relax the team in a good way,” senior Stephanie Morgan said.

Jones was hired in August by Ron Garner to be the new women’s cross-country head coach and the distance coach for the track and field team. Jones was an assistant women’s track and field coach at Illinois from 1994-1996 before moving to Akron University, where he spent 17 seasons. He was the head coach for five of those years, earning two MAC Women’s Cross-Country Coach of the Year Awards and two conference championship teams. However, Jones felt it was time to move on.

“There was a certain sensation of having done what you can do there,” Jones said. “I was able to have great coaching colleagues who helped educate me.”

The team was relieved to finally know who its head coach would be after a summer of mystery.

“It was hard not knowing,” senior Katie Porada said. “That uncertainty was scary for us a little bit, but the team stuck together, which made it a bit easier.”

After being hired, Jones had just a few days to prepare himself before his team joined him on campus. When they finally did, the team was happy to see that he was going to work with them and help create an environment that would help the team grow.

“I want to develop a personal relationship,” Jones said. “One where trust is important, as well as being a good listener, giving the appropriate amount of space as well as being accessible to the team”.

This relationship has not only helped Jones’ team to succeed on the field, but also in the classroom. All of his teams since 1998 have received USTFCCCA All-Academic recognition.

“At first I gave myself a pat on the back, but then I realized that women cross country runners are usually very smart and tend to have high GPAs,” Jones said.

This is reflected in the way Jones approaches his team at practice. He tries to apply scientific principles and other techniques he knows his team will be able to understand. The runners respect his confidence and intelligence.

“He is definitely very smart,“ Porada said. “It not only makes it very easy for us to receive him but also for us to trust him.”

It is through this trust that Jones not only hopes to finish in the top half of the conference by the end of the season, but also help his team grow as athletes, students and people.

“I want this to be an experience where they learn about themselves and their capabilities, how to interact with other people, how to be successful, something that extends beyond a track meet and into the rest of their lives,” Jones said.

He said he hopes the relationships he’s built can serve as a foundation for the program and offer an opportunity to all those who are willing to work for it.

“Not everyone has had equal opportunities,” Jones said. “We want to give people who haven’t been as fortunate the opportunity to make something of themselves.”

Michal can be reached at [email protected] and @bennythebull94.