The middle-distance tandem of Jimmie Jones and Marcus Mayes was near the end of a long, grueling set of 10 400-meter runs at the end of Missouri’s track practice.
“Jim this is your last one,” coach Rick McGuire said.
After Jones completed that run, he sauntered back to the start line. He then stepped up to the white line, crouched into his start position and pushed himself one last time.
“He’s one of the hardest working people I’ve ever known,” Mayes said. “If he has more in him, he’s not going to cut himself short.”
Mayes and Jones have been pushing each other since their freshman year. The two have finished next to each other in several races throughout their careers. Mayes beat Jones by a hundreth of a second on Saturday to win the 800 meters in the Tom Bott’s Invitational at Walton Stadium. The two finished first and second at last year’s Tom Bott’s invitational, with Mayes the winner.
“Anytime that me and Jim face up, we think we’re going to finish one-two,” Mayes said.
Coach McGuire said the 800 meters in the cold conditions Saturday showcased their fortitude.
“You saw great heart there, on a day where you don’t want to take your clothes off and run,” he said.
Jones has been working hard since he first gazed at his mother’s high school track trophies.
“My momma was a high school all-American,” Jones said. “I saw all my mom’s trophies, and I said that I was going to have more than her.”
Jones was pushed by his mother Myra Jones to excel in track and field. She coached Jones in grade school and never went easy on him.
“She’s my No. 1 critic and my No. 1 fan,” he said. “She never let me settle for anything.”
Jones has adopted the never-settle attitude as his own. Even though his training partners praised his constant work ethic, he maintains that he didn’t always work hard.
“I can’t always say that I did my best,” he said.
Myra Jones had to work hard. After high school she joined the Army. She then started working the midnight shift at a government job to take care of Jimmie and his brother. She also had to raise her two children alone.
“Basically my mom is like my mother and my father,” Jones said.
Adding to the hardship of living in a single-parent home was the reality of the streets. Jones grew up in inner-city Detroit and said the temptation of drugs was always around. But he never got sucked into that life.
“Drugs, gangs, it wasn’t ever a part of my life,” he said.
One helpful influence was his group of friends and their families.
“I felt I was never missing anything because I was blessed to have friends that all had one thing in common: single parent mothers,” he said, “Their families treated me like family.”
Jones also looked to his grandfather. Jack Jones became the father figure Jones’ was searching for and another inspiration for his work ethic.
“My grandad gave me what I was missing by not having a father,” he said. “He lives for me, to this day.”
Jack Jones was also an accomplished athlete. He played baseball in an elite league while he was in the Army and made it to the Negro leagues where he played for the Kansas City Monarchs. After about a year with the Monarchs, Jones learned that he wouldn’t be able to support his family on his playing salary. So he stopped playing baseball and started working in a factory for Chrysler. Jones also had to work many side jobs while he worked at Chrysler, some of which were cab driving and working at a gas station. Another was Jones’ small security business that he started and ran.
“If he did it, I can’t make no excuses,” Jimmie Jones said. “He did it with half the opportunities that I had.”
Jones’ grandfather coached him in baseball and provided an interest in business that his grandson carried with him into college. Jones will be the first member of his family to graduate from college when he finishes this spring.
“All he wants to do is see me graduate college and start a family,” Jones said.
Jones’ work ethic has spread to school, where he is majoring in business. He was also a United States Track and Field Coaches Association All-Academic Award winner. Jones has tried for the past few semesters to get a 4.0, but so far it has eluded his grasp.
“He just missed a 4.0,” Mayes, who is also Jone’s roommate, said. “He had a 3.91 that whole semester. Last semester he had one of the highest GPAs on the team.”
Jones wasn’t always as focused on school.
“Sport was the No. 1 driver to get to the next level,” he said. “School was just necessary for sport.”
Jones has enjoyed success in track as well, becoming an All-American in the distance medley relay. Jones’ best events are the 400 and 800 meters, but he said that his best event is the 600 meters, which doesn’t exist.
“The 800 is a little long for me, and the 400 is a little short,” he said.
“If they ever made the 600 meters into an Olympic event, I’d be the gold medalist.”
Mayes said that Jones is one of the most passionate people he’s ever known. Jones’ passion has led the team to feel inspired by him.
“That energy and attitude brings out the best in people,” Peterson said.
Jones is hoping to use passion to create a better world for his mother and brother.
“I feel like my momma invested in me like a stock, and I’m about to give her a return bigger than the stock market has ever seen,”