Richmond Hill High School track and cross country standout Corey Jones will keep his talents close to home after signing a letter of intent Tuesday to run track at Savannah State University.
So what swayed one of the state’s top middle-distance runners to go to SSU?
“I feel like Savannah State was the better choice,” said Jones, who will take another stab at a state title in either the 800 or 1,600 next weekend after winning sectionals in the former and nearly winning the latter last weekend.
“I really felt that coach Whitaker there has better goals for his athletes,” Jones added. “He works on developing them and helping them get better rather, where the big schools are just trying to score points at the NCAA meet.”
Jones’ high school coach, Levi Sybert, believes his top male middle-distance runner has made the right choice in staying close to home.
“Corey has found a D1 school in Georgia that is going to serve him very, very well,” Sybert said in an email. “After looking into the University of Georgia, Kennesaw State and the University of South Carolina-Beaufort, SSU has proved to provide the best package for his collegiate goals. Essentially, they will be providing the appropriate coaching, competition, facility and financial support that he is most interested in. (And) I really think he is going to continue growing as an athlete and appropriately to how gifted he is.”
Jones definitely brings plenty of talent to the Tigers. The state runner-up in the 800 last season, Jones has been one of the region and area’s top performers in both the 800 and the 1,600.
And then there’s cross country, where Jones was named the Coastal Empire’s top runner in 2013 by the Savannah Morning News after his fourth-place finish at the boys’ state Class AAAA meet.
In short, there’s hardly an area meet Jones hasn’t won during his two years at RHHS after moving here from Texas. The son a Reggie and Michelle Jones, both of whom have military backgrounds, Jones wants to turn his love of computers into a career while also continuing his running as far as it will take him.
And he intends to serve in the military, too.
“My whole family has served in the military,” he said. “So it’s a life legacy. And it’s important to me to serve my country.”
Rarely do athletes who get to go on to college or pro careers get there without help. Jones said his parents and Sybert were instrumental in preparing him for the next level.
“I’ve got to thank my parents for just encouraging me and go out there and do my best,” he said. “And also coach Sybert, because without him I really wouldn’t be where I am today. I’ve been successful because of him. He’s the best coach I’ve ever had.”
That respect is evidently mutual.
“Corey’s family’s decision to come to RHHS has meant so much to me and the track and cross country programs, for sure,” Sybert said. “He is so coach-able, so open-minded, so respectful.”
And despite being the boys’ top star since the departure of two-time state 800 champ Shaquille Walker – now at BYU – Jones is another who is able to put that aside.
“As a coach, you want a star on the team always, but sometimes ‘stars’ come with a package that you do not want other athletes modeling,” said Sybert, one of the more thoughtful and innovative coaches in the business. “How do you work appropriately with those kinds of kids so they don’t kick a hole in the hull of the ship they are deboarding?”
That’s not a problem with Jones, who is one of the more likeable athletes one could meet.
“Corey is the kind of athlete that makes our hull ultra-thick for athletes of the upcoming classes. I love coaching him, I am blessed to know him and am grateful to what he means to our program and school,” Sybert said.
Five questions with Corey Jones
Q. What’s your favorite TV show and why?
A: I watch a lot of TV shows, but I’d have to go with “Arrow.” Why? Because I love super heroes, to be honest, and I really enjoy just watching the guy shoot his bow and arrows. It’s amazing what he can do and the story is really good as well.
Q: If you weren’t a track and field and cross country standout, what sport would you participate in?
A: If I didn’t do track and cross country, I’d go out for baseball. I was pretty good in baseball before I ran track, and I loved playing in the outfield.
Q: If you could sit down and talk with anybody from history, who would it be and why?
A: I would like to talk to Michael Johnson, the world record holder in the 400. His high school was not far from where I went to school in Texas, so I’d ask him how his track career was and what it’s like being a world record holder and how great an experience has that been for him.
Q: What’s your favorite food?
A: I’d have to say Chinese orange chicken. Why? It’s just good. That sauce they put on it, it’s amazing.
Q: Since you’re into super heroes, answer this one: Who’d win in a 200-meter run between Usain Bolt and Batman?
A: I think it would be Usain Bolt, because Batman, while he’s good with gadgets and fighting, but if it’s moving around I’d pick Usain Bolt.