KEENE — Rio Vista sophomore Josh Jones became the first Eagle to advance to the regional cross country meet since 2009 when he placed second at the District 17-3A meet on Monday.
Jones’ accomplishment of being the first Rio Vista runner to advance past district would be impressive enough, but what makes his feat even more impressive is Monday’s district meet was his first true varsity race.
Jones came in second place with a personal record time of 17:46.
“It was unbelievable,” Jones said. “I didn’t expect it to be this good my first varsity meet. It’s amazing to be the first Rio Vista runner since 2009 to qualify. I’m speechless to be honest.”
Jones, Rio Vista’s only cross country runner this season, has competed at the junior varsity level throughout the season. After seeing steady improvement and numerous top-3 finishes, Rio Vista Coach Rafael Andrade decided to move him up to the varsity level.
“He had previously been running in JV, but when I started comparing times, I thought he could be in the top-6 places, but he pulled out second place which was amazing,” Andrade said. “It’s amazing because I don’t have a lot of kids willing to run, so the fact that I’ve got one who’s having success will maybe help the other kids understand this is a decent program we can have. Josh is our one runner right now. I’m hoping this will kind of push more kids to come out and try cross country.”
Andrade entered Jones into a varsity meet previously, but the majority of teams pulled out due to weather so Jones was only running against less than 20 athletes, which made Monday’s meet his first true varsity test — a test he passed with flying colors.
As he was nearing the finish line, the only thought in Jones’ mind was to keep running, he said.
“There were four more runners behind me so I had to make sure they didn’t pass me and make sure they couldn’t catch me,” Jones said. “I just had to keep going and don’t stop.”
Andrade said they set a goal of 18 minutes, but Jones beat that by 14 seconds.
“Josh is the type of athlete that I like to coach,” Andrade said. “I have had some athletes like him that will do whatever you tell him to do. He’ll beat a goal if you set a time for him. He really does try to please his coaches and I really enjoy coaching him. When we’re training, he’ll do every last second of timed running and sometimes he’ll go beyond. Whatever I ask him to do, he just says, ‘Yes, sir.’”
Jones, who said he’s only been running long distance for three years, said he’s looking forward to the regional meet.
“I’ll just do my best to see if I can break my time and hopefully make state,” Jones said. “I’m going to try to make it to state.”
“I expect him to get this time if not maybe even a little bit better,” Andrade said. “... He felt really strong out there [Monday]. I expect him to do a little bit better at regionals, if not, at least don’t go back over 18 minutes.”