Nebraska Wesleyan track and field coach Ted Bulling sees the Jones sisters as pretty interchangeable.

After Saturday's final day of the NCAA Division III Championships, they're even when it comes to come-from-behind anchor legs to win national titles at least.

"Elizabeth was our anchor and she came from behind on anchor to win indoor, and so Kaylee did it outdoors," Bulling said.

Kaylee Jones ran a blistering final leg to rally the Nebraska Wesleyan women's 4x400 relay team to a national title on Saturday in La Crosse, Wisconsin. It's a fifth straight national title in the event, dating back to the 2016 indoor championships.

But the fifth one may have been the most mentally challenging.

"Each of us did exactly what we needed to do to get to the place we needed to be in order to win that race," Kaylee Jones said.

Bulling said the race developed almost exactly like they thought it would. Aspen Rolfes, a Lincoln Pius X graduate, took the baton for the third leg almost even or just a step behind her Emory counterpart. Emory had the top preliminary time from Thursday and the top mark in the country this season, and its third runner, Dani Bland, was the national runner-up in the 100 meters and finished third in the 200.

Bland opened up a 6- to 8-meter lead on Rolfes midway through their leg.

But Rolfes stayed with it and Kaylee Jones said she was getting a little nervous as Rolfes was battling with a Wartburg runner. But as Rolfes came down the stretch, she surpassed the Wartburg runner to put Kaylee Jones just a step behind the Emory anchor.

"Right there, I was confident that we could do something amazing," Kaylee Jones said.

And she took it from there.

"We knew if we got to that point, it was still hard, the Emory girl ran a 54.7 on anchor leg," Bulling said. "But Kaylee ran 53.6."

The Millard North graduate posted a blistering final lap of 53.531 seconds to overtake the Emory anchor in the final 100 and help the Prairie Wolves win by more than 0.8 of a second.

"I did not know I had that in me," said Kaylee Jones, who said she was surprised when she heard her split.

NWU set a stadium record with its winning time of 3:42.15 and it's the second-fastest time in school history. At this year's indoor championships, Elizabeth Jones, running the anchor leg, took the lead on the final lap to clinch the title. Elizabeth Jones was third in the open 400 and Kaylee Jones was fifth, as both added All-America honors in the event. NWU finished 11th as a team.

Kaylee Jones said mentally, it was a harder race to prepare for than the previous title runs. The team was determined and the runners would give everything they had, but there were some nerves. Previous iterations of the relay had all four runners clocking in with splits in the :55 range. This newest title team doesn't have the same across-the-board consistency quite yet.

"Of the five, this one may have been the hardest," Bulling said. "But in many ways, as rewarding as any of them."

— Clint Robus


Digital sports editor

Clint Robus is the digital and assistant sports editor at the Journal Star.

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