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Elite Q&A
ERIN JONES
If you haven’t heard the name Erin Jones yet, just wait — you will. And soon. The 24-year-old bounded onto the triathlon scene last year and quickly solidified her place on the list of hopefuls for the 2016 Olympic Games. A native of Hood River, Oregon, Jones was a swimmer and a runner before turning to triathlon near the end of her college career. Last May, she was the first female graduate of the USA Triathlon Elite Triathlon Academy (ETA) in Colorado Springs before going on to place third at the ITU Under-23 World Championships in Edmonton, Canada. And she’s already notched a major win in 2015 — literally running away with the lead at the Punta Guilarte CAMTRI Triathlon American Cup in Puerto Rico for her first international title.


But life hasn’t been all podiums and PRs for Jones. Here, she shares more of her story — including the pain of losing her mother to Huntington’s disease three years ago, and the sacrifices involved in going after her Olympic dreams.


 


USA Triathlon: How did you get started in triathlon?


Erin Jones: I did my first triathlon when I was 17. Back then, I was running and swimming in high school and did triathlon for fun. There aren’t too many tri teams in the Pacific Northwest, so I didn’t have a chance to train and race at the junior level like some of my competitors. I went on to run for Oregon State — focusing on the 5k and 10k on the track.


 


USAT: Did you ever think you’d become a professional triathlete back then?


EJ: Sure! I always followed triathletes, pro read the magazines and knew there were opportunities out there. So I was so excited when I was accepted into the ETA. It meant that I had to leave Oregon State a year early [to attend the University of Colorado Colorado Springs; she graduated last May]. But it was an amazing chance to go after my dream.


 


USAT: How was the transition from runner/ swimmer to triathlete?


EJ: It’s a lot more time consuming and independent, since I tend to do a lot of training on my own. I was always with a team as a runner and a swimmer. And there was definitely a learning curve with cycling. I grew up swimming and running but never rode a bike competitively. Learning to ride has given me a new perspective on training. It’s fresh and exciting — and a little scary, too.


 


USAT: You lost your mom, Debbie, a few years ago. How has that experience impacted you as a person and an athlete?


EJ: My mom was sick basically my entire life. At 30, she was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, a neurological brain disorder kind of like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease combined. By the time I was 18, her speech and motor skills deteriorated to the point that she had to be placed in a nursing home. She died about two years later.


Watching her battle her disease and having to help take care of her definitely shaped who I am. She was such a strong woman and fought until the end. I became more independent and a tougher athlete because of it.


 


USAT: You consider your dad, Tony, as your best friend and biggest supporter. Can you describe your bond?


EJ: I wouldn’t be where I am without him. He’s my best friend. Growing up, he took me to every meet and every practice, all while being my mom’s caretaker. He still comes to a lot of my overseas races and is always there, giving advice. He likes to think he’s my coach sometimes, but he’s cool about it and knows there’s a line that can’t be crossed.


 


USAT: He was there to see you make the podium at last year’s U23 World Championships in Edmonton. What was that like?


EJ: So special. We hugged after the race and both burst into tears. Then, he was in the front row during the medal ceremony and neither of us could wipe the smiles off of our faces. It was a very proud moment for me. Wearing a Team USA suit with “Jones” on the back is a reminder that I’m doing something bigger than myself — I get to represent my family and my country.


 


USAT: You recently got engaged — have you set a wedding date yet?


EJ: Not yet! My fiancé, Logan Storie, is training for the Olympic Trials in Pentathlon. So with all of the traveling happening this year, we’ll probably wait until October 2016. We’re actually living apart right now since he’s at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and I’m with my TriLogic team in Scottsdale, Arizona. We try to see each other once a month. It’s tough, but we know in the end, the sacrifice will be worth it.


 


USAT: Given your hot streak of late, are you confident about your chances to earn a spot on the 2016 Olympic squad?


EJ: My recent races have been big confidence boosters, but I’m still growing every day in the sport. There’s so much I need to learn. I’m excited to race this season and go after qualifying for the Olympic Team in 2016. Just being able to race and train with Olympians like Sarah Groff [True] and Gwen Jorgensen has been such an honor. So if it doesn’t work out this time, I’ll take it in stride.


— Sarah Wassner Flynn


38 USA TRIATHLON SPRING 2015

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