This resourceful Southridge track star is looking to set more high marks this season

Andre C. Fernandez
·5 min read

Miami Southridge’s Alyssa Jones breaks records these days, not broomsticks.

But during quarantine, Jones went back to her roots.

“When I was a kid, I loved watching the high jump on TV,” Jones said. “So I set up a broom and propped up over my bed as the bar. I remember I broke the first one I used. It was a little scary because I didn’t want my mom to get mad at me for that. It went more smoothly now.”

Jones wasn’t a menace to sweeping tools for too long.

Before the pandemic canceled the track season, Jones posted the best marks in the nation in the high jump (6-feet, 3/4-inch) and long jump (20-feet, 9 1/4-inches) and also ran the fifth-fastest time in the nation in the 200-meter dash (23.90 seconds) per DyeStat.com.

Jones, a junior who has college offers from several Division-I schools including Stanford, Georgia and Texas A&M, was named Gatorade’s Florida Athlete of the Year in track and field.

“Her natural strength makes her one of the strongest jumpers that’s ever come through and her ability to adjust and adapt to the little things you need to be successful [in those events],” Southridge coach Erin McCray said. “Typically a lot of jumpers can’t run, but she can do both at a high level and that’s rare.”

After winning a state title in the high jump as a freshman in 2019 with a mark of 5-9 3/4, Jones was poised to capture more gold before everything was shut down last year.

Jones took a bit of a break between March and June after what she said had been non-stop freshman and sophomore seasons.

It didn’t detract from her focus to get better though.

Jones spent days running in open fields at a park near her house.

She then practiced her approaches to jumps in the streets where at least once she tore a hole in her sneakers on the pavement.

Without a place to actually jump over a bar prompted her improv training in her room.

Jones didn’t stop there though.

“Later on [in the offseason], she ordered her own cones, her own measuring tape and asked me, ‘Coach what do I need to do to keep going?’” McCray said. “That’s what separates the elite kids. They’re going to ask ‘what do I need to do to stay fit?’ She wants to be great and get to the next level and those are the things she needs to do.”

Jones started jumping when she was in fourth grade and running track in sixth grade. Later she started playing soccer, but her mother, Lesharn, a former track sprinter at Buford High in South Carolina, encouraged her to focus on track.

“My mom saw what I could do on the track and she thought I could be special at it one day,” Jones said.

Jones’ mother, now a nurse at a Veterans Affairs hospital, tries to get to as many of her daughter’s meets as she can.

When she’s not on the track, Jones excels in the classroom where she has a 4.50 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society. Although the pandemic has limited her to only virtual sessions, Jones has volunteered as part of a literacy-outreach program for preschool children as well.

She also wants to be involved in other charity work such as beach cleanups when possible.

As far as the 2021 season, Jones is aiming for more high marks in the high jump and long jump and faster times in both the 200 and the 1,600-meter relay, which she will run along with returning sophomores Somiyah Braggs and Cynteria James on what figures to be another loaded Southridge squad aiming for a state title.

In addition to Braggs and James, the Spartans should also be strong in the hurdles thanks to senior Spirit Morgan and sophomores Kendalle James and Janiyha Scott. Senior Kirsten Rolle and junior Yesenia Benjamin are Southridge’s top returners in the shot put, discus and javelin events.

“We have a lot of talent on this team for sure and we’re definitely looking forward to another big year,” Jones said.

THIS AND THAT

The regular season began on Monday and is scheduled to run through April 10th. Districts will be held April 12-23rd with regionals on May 1st. Specific dates for the state meets have not been announced but they are scheduled to take place at Percy Beard Stadium on the campus of the University of Florida.

Miami-Dade County’s top-ranked returning sprinter in the girls’ 200 meters is Miami Northwestern’s Lamaria Washington, who had the third-best time in the nation last season (23.76). She leads a Bulls squad looking to extend their state-record championship streak to 12 consecutive seasons and add to its state-best total of 16 state championships.

Columbus and Northwestern remain Dade’s state favorites on the boys’ side in Classes 4A and 3A. But Belen Jesuit returns one of the state’s best distance runners in senior Javier Vento. Despite the abbreviated season, Vento ran the seventh-fastest time in the nation in the 1,600 (4:11.20) at the Reggie Johnson Memorial.

The Varela boys are going to have one of the youngest coaching staffs in South Florida. Led by head coach Alejandro Hernandez, the Vipers coaches have an average age of 20. Junior sprinter Andro Blanco and distance runner Osvaldo Cruz are their top athletes.

Carrollton will be led by seniors Madison Roberts (triple jump, high jump), Franki Suarez (3200) and Jacqueline Reed (high jump, long jump) as well as juniors Polina Salas (jumps, hurdles) and Victoria Trap (distance).

Palmer Trinity’s boys will be led by juniors George Stark (800, 1600, 3200) and Brandon Bottinger (100, 200, high jump), a transfer from Florida Christian, and sophomore Austin Foster (400, 800, discus). The Falcons girls will be led by junior Gaby Dorta, who was ranked 16th in the state in the 300-meter hurdles in Class 1A as a freshman.

Coming next week: Broward County’s track and field preview.