NATCHITOCHES – “Trust The Process” is associate head coach Adam Pennington’s mantra, and it is something that the sprints coach has seared into the Northwestern State track competitors’ minds during afternoon practice sessions at the Walter P. Ledet Track Complex.
But for De’Shalyn Jones, the lightly recruited junior who just took the Southland Conference Outdoor Championships by storm with four gold medal performances, it is a phrase that epitomizes her meteoric rise at NSU.
Jones was an afterthought for many collegiate coaches following her graduation from John Tyler High School in Tyler, Texas. She received zero offers from her home state institutions, so the new Southland 100 meter, 200, 4×100 relay and 4×400 relay champion decided to head east by way of a scholarship offer from the Lady Demons.
“I always remind myself of where I started. I think about that all the time. I really only had one scholarship that was close to home, so I still tell myself ‘I am nothing’ to keep myself humble.” Jones said. “Being from Texas, where no schools were wanting to take a chance on me, definitely put a chip on my shoulder. That made me want to beat every school in Texas to prove what I could have offered them, but I am thankful that one school in Louisiana wanted to take a chance on me.”
Pennington has already seen the Lady Demons’ investment pay dividends for his sprint squad. He is especially impressed by what Jones has been able to do in such a short time since buying into the “process.”
“De’Shalyn has come a long way. It is pretty amazing to look back at where she was when she arrived, and to see where she is now,” Pennington said. “But, the scary thing is, I think she can still get a lot better.”
That is high praise for Jones, who is coming off a weekend where her 25 points outscored four schools, earning her the female High Point Scorer award for the 2017 Southland championships.
But even with the “process” in place, Pennington believes it takes an athlete who is willing to totally commit make it all work, and the sprints coach said Jones has done exactly that.
“Some kids need to get in the right college system, and I think a lot of the credit needs to go to De’Shalyn and her belief in the coaching staff,” Pennington said. “I have never had a situation with her where she has not trusted our plan, and her buying in has been huge.”
Jones remembers the gradual climb from virtual anonymity to Southland supremacy. Her experience coming out of high school is still what drives her today.
“I have the same mindset that I did before I got here. I barely had any offers, so that is what keeps me humble,” Jones said. “I started with nothing. Only one school really saw something in me, so I use that to remind myself I still have a long way to go.”
While Jones’ four gold medals proves that she is the class of the Southland Conference, those rankings mean very little to her as she prepares for the NCAA East Regionals next weekend in Lexington, Kentucky.
“Just because I am first in our conference, that does not mean anything,” Jones said. “Rankings do not mean anything, what is on paper does not mean anything. What means something is what you do when you step on the track.”
Pennington put a little more stock in her performance throughout the year, and certainly trusts what the process can produce come championship season.
“She has a chance to stand on the podium at the national championships,” Pennington said. “I think she has All-American written all over her. I know she respects the competition, but I also know she fears no one. It is a blessing to have that type of athlete on our side.”