Nick of time

Your team has just won a state trophy.

Well done.

It's time to celebrate with family, friends, coaches and most importantly, your teammates.

Everyone on the team will enjoy hoisting this hardware, as a season of hard work has been fulfilled. Pass it around, let everyone get a piece of this prized pie.

Well, Nick Jones didn't have to share the trophy. He could hold it as long as he wanted. Why?

Nick Jones was a one-man team. Literally.

During last weekend's Class 1-2 Missouri Track and Field Championships at Dwight T. Reed Stadium, Jones --- his school's lone state qualifier --- won state titles in the 100-meter dash (11.22) and 200-meter dash (22.41), he was second in the 400-meter dash (51.36), and third in the long jump (21 feet).

He scored 34 points and captured a fourth-place "team" trophy for his school.

"On Friday when I made the finals in the 100, 200 and 400," Jones said Monday during an email exchange, "I knew my times were good and I was watching the other teams scores.

"I felt I had a good chance to earn points for my team and possibly finish third or fourth. And I was right."

He certainly was. And this is where this story goes from good to great --- Jones is a junior at the Missouri School for the Deaf in Fulton.

"I felt proud to represent MSD by myself and for the other coaches, too," Jones said. "I love my school."

Jones didn't just beat most of the 44-team Class 1 field by himself, he beat the odds.

"I was really proud of Nick and his effort; he leaves it out there on the track, he doesn't save anything," MSD assistant coach Bobby Washington said. "It was wonderful to see him accomplish the goals he set for himself.

"What he did gives recognition to the Missouri School for the Deaf, so people know we have a track program. A lot of times, these kids are in a mainstream school and they're not able to be a part of a team.

"This way, we open up a door for them."

Good stuff, great ambassador.

"Nick is a very quiet young man," Washington said. "He takes in a lot, he observes everything that's going on, he's very approachable ... he likes making new friends.

"And he's very respectful. If he happens to finish second in a race, he'll be the first to congratulate the young man who beat him."

Jones scored his points last weekend in the "speed" events and there's a reason for this --- he's faster than everyone else.

The Nick of Time.

"When I was in elementary school, first grade, I used to beat everyone when we raced," Jones said. "People started telling me then, I was going to be a good athlete when I got older."

Like father, like son.

"My dad taught me how to compete --- I am not afraid to compete aggressively," Jones said. "My dad holds the school record at MSD in the 100-meter dash (10.9) and my goal is to break his record."

While track is his favorite sport, Jones also plays football and basketball.

"When you saw him on the football field and he was out-running everybody," Washington said, "you knew he had a lot of potential."

One of the thrills of victory, however, is hearing the roar of the crowd. Does Jones enjoy this "privilege?"

Well, maybe not like you or me but happily --- with the help of hearing aids --- the answer is yes.

"He has some hearing," Washington said. "He can hear sounds but they're distorted, he can't hear what people are saying. But he hears the cheers and he sees the applause."

He sure does.

"Yes I heard the crowd, they were loud!!!" Jones said during our email chat. "They gave me motivation to try my best to succeed."

Smile here --- as if you weren't.

The cheers continued when Jones, who's from the St. Louis area, returned to MSD.

"When I arrived on campus," he said, "students and staff greeted me. They were excited that I did so well at the state track meet. Some people thought that I wouldn't do well against the tough competition at state.

"But I proved them wrong."

What a story, what an athlete, what a "team."

Worthy of a trophy, wouldn't you say?