Whitehorse runner qualifies for Senior Olympics

After a decade away from competitive running, Whitehorse's Donna Jones is on track for another big season next year. Jones won three gold medals and a silver at the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah, this week.

After a decade away from competitive running, Whitehorse’s Donna Jones is on track for another big season next year.

Jones won three gold medals and a silver at the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah, this week.

Two of her times in the running events have qualified her for the Iowa Senior Olympic Games next year.

“I’m thrilled with that,” said Jones. “I’m considering it. Why not? It’s all fun.”

Jones, who was competing in the women 55-59 age group, captured gold in the 10-kilometre race with a time of 49 minutes and 13 seconds on Monday. She ended the Games with another gold in the five-kilometre race with a time of 24:16, a personal best “since I’ve come back to running,” said Jones. “I’m especially thrilled with it after running hard for the last three days.”

Her third gold came midweek in the 4×100 relay, teaming up with two Americans and another Canadian.

“There were two Canadians (on the team) so we considered ourselves an international team,” said Jones.

Jones also ran to silver in the 400-metre event. Making the silver extra special is the fact that, before this summer, she had never once raced on a track.

“I’ve never run on a track in my life and I’ve never had starting blocks and I don’t have the spiked shoes and all the technical stuff,” said Jones. “There are many serious people who just train for the sprints … Running my absolute hardest, wondering, ‘How the hell did they do that?’ They just explode off the starting blocks.”

Jones also placed fourth in the 200-metre sprint, but was towards the back of the pack in the 50- and 100-metre sprints.

It would seem, the longer the race, the better the result.

“I thought I’d give sprinting a try. I know now I’m not a sprinter,” said Jones. “I’m going to keep to distance lengths. I still might do some track, but they will all be over 400 (metres) from here on in. It really is a totally different sport for those short sprints.

“For me, running is going out on the trails at home and going for some nice long, slow distance stuff.

“I couldn’t imagine training on a track. Everyone is talking about moving indoors. It would be like doing laps in a swimming pool. For me, running is getting out and seeing things and going different places.”

Jones decided to give track a shot in St. George after a stellar performance at the Canada 55+ Games last month in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

In Sydney Jones won more medals than any other Yukon athlete, bagging seven medals, including four gold, in the 55-and-over division.

“I figured, if I’ve gone all that way … I would give track a try,” said Jones. “And I did well there. I just had a lot of fun. So I thought I’d like to try some of the shorter distances.”

Jones is one of three Whitehorse athletes competing at the Huntsman Games this week.

Cyclists Michael McCann and Bill Curtis are having their own successes.

McCann, who is making his 13th appearance at the Games, has won three medals in Division I for men 65-69.

He began by winning bronze in the hill climb and then won gold in the 20-kilometre time trial with a time of 28:15, a full minute ahead of the second-place rider.

“I set a course record,” said McCann. “It is a new course – there is that caveat. But I was the fastest person in the 20-kilometre overall.

“What was really impressive was the fact the Department of Transport blocked off an entire lane, out and back, for the time trial. On the four-lane highway they had cones set up, so the right-hand lane on the way out and on the way back was strictly for cyclists. It was truly impressive how they set that up.”

McCann made it three in a row with a bronze in the criterium race on Thursday.

Curtis, who is in Division II for men 60-64, had his best result on Thursday, placing fourth in the criterium, missing the bronze by a wheel length.

“I surprised myself,” said Curtis of the result.

He also claimed 13th in the hill climb and 10th in the 40-kilometre time trial.

“As long as I’m not going backwards, I feel good about it,” said Curtis. “It’s a positive experience.”

The two cyclists will finish the Games on Friday with 62-kilometre road race, an event in which McCann took gold and Curtis took bronze last year.

“I’ve been so inspired here,” added Jones. “They actually had a category of 95-99 in the men’s events. In the 90-94 there were four guys and had real competition going on.

“It’s completely inspiring to be around people who continue to compete and have fun and are doing it for the right reasons.

“I haven’t competed much in the past 10 years; I just came back into it in the past year and found some balance. I was taking it way too serious before.”

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