Wright City’s Levi Jones – Athlete Spotlight Presented by McCurtain County National Bank

By Nick Hampton

“I’ve coached cross country for 20 or 25 years. I’ve coached champions before and he’s by far the best cross-country runner I’ve ever had.”

Those are the words of Wright City cross country coach Johnny Crabtree as he talks about Levi Jones who finished second in the Class 2A state cross country championship this fall in his freshman year.

Getting into cross country was just a natural progression for Jones who was running track in middle school.

“At the end of the seventh-grade coach Crabtree started looking for runners for a middle school cross country team and so I said ‘sure, why not? I’ll just try it and see if I like it and it turns out I did’”, said Jones. “I like cross country because there’s more strategy involved than there is in a shorter track event where it’s mostly about running fast.”

After going through the season with never less than a second-place finish in a meet including regionals, Jones and Crabtree were ready for the state meet.

“We knew going in that Levi had a good chance to finish in the top three,” said Crabtree. “There were two seniors with better times-Collen McLain of Moreland and Quartermain Briggs of Clayton who had beaten Levi at regionals. I told Levi before the race to not go too hard too early. I think Briggs did just that and he faded towards the end and Levi was able to overtake him for second place behind McLain because he paced himself better.”

Jones credits his coach and his parents for helping motivate him during this freshman season and says he also follows runners like veteran Steve Prefontaine and New York City marathon winner Eluid Kipchoge. He also works with the middle school runners whom Crabtree says really look up to him.

“I’ll work out with them and mostly talk with them about pacing and also encourage them if they need it,” said Jones.

For a freshman, Crabtree says he is most impressed with the work ethic that Levi has already established.

“In addition to all the running we do during practice, it’s nothing for Levi to run an extra 15 or 20 miles a week on his own.”

Jones finished this year’s state cross-country race in 17 minutes, six seconds and hopes to take first in the coming years with a time of 15 minutes, thirty seconds or better. In the meantime, Levi Jones will look forward to the spring track season where he’ll run the mile, 800 meters and in some of the relay events for the Lumberjax.