Kansas State has a long tradition of success at the Olympics, dating all the way back to 1920. 24 Wildcats have represented their countries at the Olympics so far, winning eight medals in total. This year, seven current and former Kansas State track and field athletes have qualified for the 2016 Games in Rio. Over the next week, we'll introduce you to each of these Wildcats so you can root for them when they take the field.
It’s easy to run out of superlatives to describe Akela Jones. At the ripe old age of 12, she was already a high jump silver medalist at the CARIFTA Games. A year later, she cleared 1.81m in her native Barbados, still a world record in the 13-and-under category. By 2014, she had won multiple medals at the CARIFTA Games and was NAIA outdoor champion in the long jump, high jump, and 100m hurdles events.
If all that was not enough, she also took gold in the long jump at the World Junior Championships in 2014, becoming the first athlete from Barbados to ever win a medal at the World Juniors.
But Jones was just getting started. Her Division I collegiate career began with a bang. She won the Big 12 long jump title in 2015 and also set national records in Barbados in the pentathlon with 4,402 points. Later that season, competing in only her second heptathlon ever, Jones won the NCAA outdoors national title with a total of 6,371 points and shattered Austra Skujyte’s Kansas State record in the process. Since then, all Jones has done is matched her own record for 4,000+ one-day points in the heptathlon, set a new collegiate heptathlon record in the high jump with a mark of 1.95m, and won the Big 12 long jump title.
Still, the Olympics are a huge mountain to climb. The Rio Games will be her first appearance at the Olympics, and relative to other athletes, Jones is fairly inexperienced. She’s only participated in five heptathlons in her life, and at 21, she’s had limited international competition or exposure.
Plus, Jones hasn’t always been equal to the challenge on the biggest stage. This past season, way out in front of the rest of the heptathlon field after the first day at the NCAA Championships, and feeling enormous pressure to defend her title, Jones blinked. She finished third in the event after practically walking to the finish line in the 800m race. That was a defining moment for Jones, who vowed to use the disappointment to propel herself to greater heights.
Inspired by Erik Kynard’s success, Jones is determined to work hard to achieve her Olympic goals. She’s also keenly aware that she’s representing not just herself, but Barbados as well. Expectations are high, and this time around, Jones promises to be unfazed by the moment.
In Rio, Jones will be competing in the heptathlon and the high jump. She takes the field on August 12 for the first day of the heptathlon, and will also be in action on August 18 for the high jump qualifiers at 10:00 AM CDT.