Garfield’s 3-time state champ looks past setbacks, pressure

MICHAEL G. TAYLOR- 06-02-17 OHSAA State Track & Field Championships. D2 Girls Discuss,, Garfiled's Lauren Jones throws 157-09.00 ft. to win her 3rd straight state title.

GARRETTSVILLE — Bruce Jones always remembered that moment.

He saw his then eighth-grade daughter, Lauren, competing in the discus, seeing other athletes throw about 100 feet. Bruce and another coach were fetching the discus at a meet at Woodridge High School.

“Lauren let go of one and it went 125 feet,” Bruce said. “It soared over our heads. We looked at each other like, ‘You’re kidding me, right?’

“At that point and time, (Garfield track coach) Jim (Pfleger) heard about it and we said, ‘There might be something there.’ “

Jones soon became one of the state’s best discus throwers, winning three straight Division II state titles from her sophomore to senior seasons.

She is heading to the University of Oklahoma to continue her track and field exploits and is this year’s Tribune Chronicle senior female athlete of the year.

Jones, who graduated as Garfield High School’s valedictorian and carrying a 4.07 GPA, beat out Howland’s Sara Price for the honor in a close vote by the Tribune Chronicle sports staff.

Right behind Price was John F. Kennedy’s Antonella LaMonica. Also in the running were Kayla Barreca of Newton Falls, Makayla Trebella of Girard, McKenzie Drapola of Brookfield, Lexi Knight of Windham and Molly Williams of Champion.

Jones was quite a shot put thrower in seventh grade, heaving the 6-pound metal sphere about 40 feet. She could go 34 feet when it was switched to an 8-pounder, which is what high schoolers use.

Jones practiced on her grandparents’ farm with a shot put and a rubber discus. She spun around in a horse ring. Former Garfield state champion Edie Svonavec holds the school record of 49 feet in the shot put. She was a year older than Jones and started breaking records.

Jones’ grandfather knew this. He also taught his granddaughter how to throw discus in a pasture on his property.

“He drew a line where I can’t pass and drew Edie’s line,” Jones said of her early shot put practices. “What they didn’t tell me is it’s an 8-pound shot put, not a 6-pound shot put.”

Jones flicks the shot put, having its weight come off her fingertips. It’s something she learned being a pitcher on three state championship youth softball teams in Garrettsville.

“Change up for slow pitch is when it comes off the palm of your hand,” Jones said. “If you want to do a fastball, it has to roll off your fingers.

“It’s the same thing for throwing. If you want to get that extra umph, the fingers are huge. You have to get all the force and flexibility. It’s like the snap in basketball. You flick your wrist. The shot doesn’t come off your palm. It comes off your finger tips. It all correlates.”

She was a state qualifier in the shot put, long jump and discus this year, and regional qualifier in the high jump, but Jones is a multi-sport athlete.

She was part of the G-Men regional runner-up girls basketball team. At 5-feet, 7-inches, she doesn’t seem that imposing of a figure on the court. Looks can be deceiving.

Jones said Garfield coach Aaron Gilbert told her not to hurt anyone at practice.

“My mentality is, ‘They get in my way once, they’re not going to do it again,’ “ she said. “I’ve always been like the powerhouse. I might not be the tallest one out there, but I will always be the strongest.’

“You may try to block my shot, but I will get it through you. That’s my thing.”

She’s always busy, involved in the school’s flag line, golf, volleyball, softball, even playing pool with her father or a table tennis battle with classmate Seth Morgan.

That, along with playing with her two dogs, Mickey and Minnie, are considered down time for Jones.

She’ll make trips from Oklahoma to see her two fluffy friends.

“They’re not good car riders,” Jones said. “They get anxious. It sounds like Mickey is going to have a heart attack every time we go to grandma’s house.

“They’re sweethearts, but I’ll have to come home to visit them.”

It isn’t easy for most athletes to come back from certain disaster. Jones fouled on her first attempt during the June 2 state discus competition. She didn’t think anything of it as she made light of the situation. It’s what she’s does.

Jones truly lives in the moment.

Bruce said his daughter doesn’t dwell on the miscues. She lets it go for a second and comes right back — focused and ready.

Lauren keeps chatting away with her competitors and coaches as if it is another practice session. Being in front of big crowds never bothered her.

Bruce saw this when he was his daughter’s youth softball coach.

“She doesn’t stress out,” he said.

Lauren never has. It’s her happy-go-lucky attitude which made coaching her one of the easiest tasks possible.

“We always have good athletes,” Garfield throws coach Matt Pfleger said. “Having someone like Lauren around is … you just can’t replace that on your track team. That’s for sure.”