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National champion’s tank not empty

University at Buffalo shot putter Jonathan Jones gets about a week to rest on his national championship laurels before starting his post-college career.

Jones, who won the NCAA Division I shot put championship at the University of Oregon last week, goes back to the same stadium in Oregon next week for the USA Track and Field national championships.

That’s the big U.S. event for both pros and amateurs. The top four get to represent the United States at the world championships Aug. 22-30 in Beijing.

Jones, a 24-year-old from Portville, finished fourth at the USATF nationals last year. He won the NCAAs with a personal-best throw of 68 feet, 2.25 inches to become UB’s first national champ.

“It’s an unreal feeling,” Jones said Monday at UB. “It still really hasn’t hit me that I’m a national champion. The more I say it, it kind of hits home. To be the first for UB is unreal.”

Jones’ goal is to qualify for Olympic Games, either in 2016 or 2020. He sees the NCAA crown as the perfect springboard for the rest of his career.

“It kind of puts me on the map for top USA throwers,” he said. “The USA is very strong. For me to come out with a national title, people are looking at me knowing that I have more in the tank. Definitely rolling from NCAAs to USAs, I feel confident I have more in the tank. So I want to stay on a roll. For next year sponsors may be looking at having someone with the national title. They usually look at people like that for someone they’re going to sponsor.”

Jones’ schedule for the rest of the year will depend on his finish at nationals. He needs to take a 10-week break to rest and rehabilitate a sore right knee. If he doesn’t place in the top four, the break will start right away. If he does, it won’t start until September.

“I haven’t squatted since the middle of last season,” Jones said, referring to his weight-lifting regimen. “My leg strength wasn’t where it used to be and where it should be. As soon as I get healthy and I’m able to get back to the weight room and actually train completely and get the full half a year of training in, I’m sure it’s going to help a lot.”

Jones, 6-foot and 315 pounds, said he will get some platelet-rich plasma injections during a seven-week layoff, then have three weeks of rehabilitation work.

“If you do it correctly, which the doctors here do, he should respond very well to it,” said UB throws coach Jim Garnham Sr.

Jones’ NCAA crown was a testament to his strength and talent, given the limitations to his workout schedule this year.

“A normal throwing session is anywhere from 30 to 50 to 60 throws,” Garnham said. “We’d do that probably three times a week and in between do some drills. But his normal throwing session is averaging about 15 throws. So the timing’s not there. And we don’t do anything between those days. So it has been a matter of keeping him where he is.

“Once we get to full training, his distance is going to be unreal.”

The men’s shot put final is on the last day of the USA meet, June 28. The top-ranked U.S. shot putter this season is Joseph Kovacs, who in April threw 73 feet, 3.75 inches, the longest distance in the world since 2010.

Among the other top athletes entered is Jones’ idol, 37-year-old Reese Hoffa, a former world champion. At last year’s USA meet, Hoffa finished third, one spot ahead of Jones.