RICK GRAEFE / JOURNAL Charles Jones, Junioe leads the pack of 800 meter runners at Saturday's Class 3 Missouri Track and Field Championship in Jefferson City. Jones won the event in a Class 3 record time of 1:49.96

Rick Graefe

C.J. Jones is the top youth 800-meter runner in the nation. And he has the medals to prove it. Jones, a soon-to-be junior at Cardinal Ritter, spent his summer collecting national championships. He brought home four—count ‘em, four—national titles between the last week of July and the first week of August. He even set a new national record.

Jones, 16, ran the fastest 800 in AAU Junior Olympic history last week in Houston. Competing in the Young Men’s division, the 6-foot-3, 165-pounder blistered the track in an eye-popping one minute and 49.78 seconds, almost two full seconds ahead of the runner-up. It was just a hair faster than the old record set in 1980 by John Marshall. Marshall would represent the U.S. at the Olympics and become one of Villanova University’s top track athletes.

That, in and of itself, would make for one incredible summer. But Jones went bigger. He won the 1,500 in 4:02.59. He also helped the St. Louis Express Track Club take home the 4x800-meter relay national championship in 7:43.44, three seconds off the national record.

When the AAU Junior Olympics came to a close, Jones was recognized as the Joel Farrell Outstanding Performance Award recipient. Other notable recipients include Festus’s Brittany Borman (2007) and Seckman’s Sarah Gretzmacher (2002, 2003).

The week prior to the AAU Junior Olympics, Jones locked up his first national championship of the summer. He took home top honors in the 800 at the USATF Junior Olympics in Baltimore. Competing in the highest youth division, Jones raced to gold in 1:50.03. He was three seconds ahead of the runner-up.

Jones, the reigning Post-Dispatch track and field athlete of the year, said the summer was good but he wants more. “I want to get better and work harder. “I’m not satisfied with what I did. I want to make the next Olympics, definitely.”

It’s a goal that would appear to be well within his grasp. His tireless work ethic put him atop the pedestal in every race he’s run the past year. He credits his success to his borderline-masochist summer workout routine. “I work out four or five times a day,” he says. “I do three official workouts and then I do two on my own.”

More amazing is that Jones wasn’t at his best at the AAU meet. He could have gone faster but his body tightened up on him down the stretch. “I tightened up from my neck to my legs,” he explains.

The fall will be a time for Jones to let his body rest and recover from the grueling spring and summer. He’ll stay in shape and hit the gym to prepare the winter and basketball season. He started at shooting guard for Cardinal Ritter as a sophomore. “I’ll stay in shape,” he says. “I’ll work on basketball.”

(Note: Both the boys and girls AAU 800 records are held by locals. Jones holds the boys mark. Last year, Ladue graduate Samantha Levin set the girls mark.)