Jonathan Jones called his biggest fan, his mother, Wednesday night once the competition was over.
It didn’t take long for the conversation to become emotional as Haley Holcomb-Jones immediately shed tears of joy after learning her 24-year-old son had become the first University at Buffalo athlete to win a national championship.
Jones captured the shot put title during the opening day of the NCAA Outdoors Track and Field Championship in Eugene, Ore. The Portville product edged Penn State’s Darrell Hill for the title via tiebreaker. Jones unleashed what proved to be the winning throw of 68 feet, 2.25 inches on his second of six attempts. Hill matched Jones’ heave on his third attempt but failed to top the distance on each of his final three attempts. Jones took the title because his first throw of the day (just over 66 feet) was better than Hill’s second-best mark. Florida’s Stipe Zunic finished third with a toss of 65-10.5
“I called her as soon as I was done,” Jones told The News via phone. “She was crying. She could barely even speak. It was cool talking to her and seeing how excited she was.
“It feels great. I’ve been training for this moment since I started throwing. It’s unreal.”
Jones is still a prodigy in the event, considering he didn’t start throwing the shot until his junior year of high school. The highest he ever finished at states was fourth or fifth, he said.
After spending a year at Buffalo State, he transferred to UB. It was there where throwing coach Jim Garnham put it in his mind that he could become a national champion. After earning All-America five times in previous outdoor and indoor national meets, he got over the final hurdle Wednesday by unleashing a throw that broke his own UB record.
“I had that motivation and person behind me,” Jones said. “I thank him a lot. He’s the biggest reason for me to do it.”
“Bringing a national championship back to Buffalo is a dream come true,” Garnham said. “Jon beat some awesome talent today – but it was a nail-biter. There’s something special about him. It hasn’t quite hit me yet that we have a national champion. I’m on cloud nine.”
Jones plans to return to Eugene in a couple weeks for the United State Track and Field Nationals. A top four finish in that competition would secure him a spot on the national team that competes in the world championships.
That’s down the road. Perhaps by then, it will have fully sunk in that he’s a national champion.
He showed signs it was starting to sink in when asked the difference between being just an All-American and an All-American who is a national champion.
“It’s awesome to be All-American in itself; When you’re national champion it’s unreal,” he said. “You’re assumed to be the best. No matter how many people competed that year, you are the best. It’s awesome.”
Jones’ championship capped a good day at nationals for UB athletes.
Junior Mike Morgan stands fifth heading into the second day of the decathlon with 7,834 points. Georgia’s Maicel Uibo leads with 8,414.
Sprinter Ryan Billian ran his heat in the 100-meter dash in 10.41 seconds, good for sixth in his semifinal.