Elizabeth and Kaylee Jones won state meet all-class gold medals twice in the 4x400-meter relay in high school at Millard South.
Yet when the twin sisters decided to attend Nebraska Wesleyan, track was definitely not on the forefront of their minds.
“When we crossed the finish line at state our senior year, we thought that was it,” Elizabeth said. “We didn’t have that much interest. When we first visited Wesleyan, we sat down with Ted (Bulling) and we knew there was going to be some type of spectacular opportunity here.”
Elizabeth was right-on, but even she couldn’t expect the kind of imprint she and her sister were going to leave on the NWU athletic program.
Since the Joneses decided NWU track was their calling, they've accumulated six straight 4x400 relay national titles (three outdoor, three indoor), 19 All-America awards and 16 conference championships, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“These girls are just the type of individuals that we have and want in our program,” said Bulling, the NWU track and field coach. “They have helped continue our culture here at Wesleyan.”
The twins are majoring in exercise science, where they have the same grade-point average (3.92).
“I don’t even know how that happens,” Kaylee said.
They've been roommates during their time at Wesleyan.
Yet the competition, living arrangements and class schedules don’t get in the way of their authentic friendship. That goes a long way when they're competing against each other.
“Most of the times we’ll be in the same (400-meter) races,” Elizabeth said. “Every time we run our practice starts out of the blocks, we would look at each other. We just have that connection. You can’t really explain it, but we’re just there for each other.”
That connection has been a constant in two relay national championships.
The first four relay titles the Joneses won were with Abbie Hunke and Katie Krick, and the last two have come with Aspen Rolfes and Anna Frazier, who was also a part of the Millard South relay team with the Joneses.
“Having all of those girls together, it just drove them to higher and higher heights,” Bulling said.
The coach said during the last practices with Hunke and Krick on the relays, he just tried to sit back and relish in the success.
“I forced myself to just etch into memory what those practices were like,” Bulling said. “It was at a level I had never seen before. It was really cool to watch, and at that point I knew we were going to do something really special.”
While Bulling and the Joneses are keeping their eyes on the prize — a seventh straight 4x400 relay national title at the NCAA Division III Championships on Thursday through Saturday in Geneva, Ohio — Bulling said the past two weeks have been special.
“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but we are ready to go.”