Early on Saturday morning, in a field outside of Deadwood Forrest in Luther, a 5’10” man wearing a grey Jones under-armor shirt and an orange stop watch strung around his neck steadies his runners for their race. As the athletes make their way to the starting line, the sun rises to greet them, and their coach confidently reminds them to, “Run the race you’re handed.” There is a new cross country coach in town, but his face is very familiar to the Jones Community. Jake Fielder, former all-stater and cross country state champion, left his job in corporate America with the hopes to make a difference in young lives. He is currently teaching 7th grade English at Jones Middle School and coaching junior high and varsity cross country.
Run the race you’re handed.
Jake is no stranger to the Jones school district. A 2010 graduate of Jones High School, his roots run deep in this town. Not only is Jake an alum, but a longhorn legend who made his mark on the State Championship wall. He competed in multiple sports at Jones High School but most notably was a member of the 2009 State Championship Cross Country team.
After high school, Jake pursued a degree in Supply Chain Management from the University of Oklahoma. He landed a great job after college working for an engineering firm, purchasing raw steel and doing other technical tasks. Now he is teaching 13-year-old students how to dissect poetry and living his dream to coach cross country. “It’s definitely a change, but I love it. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.” He currently has 13 runners on his young cross country team, nine from the middle school and four from the high school. He is starting the process to rebuild the team where it was a decade ago.
Coach Fielder says, “At the end of the day, you are only what you get out of your work. I get a lot more out of helping kids be better than they were the week before. That is ultimately our goal out here in Cross Country. Medals and trophies are great, but if a kid is better this week than they were last week, I am doing my job. You can’t get that reward in the corporate world. It’s one of the few things that coaching can afford you.”
Medals and trophies are great, but if a kid is better this week than they were last week, I am doing my job.
Not only is Jake a local legend, but he has a legacy in Jones as well. His father, Denton Fox, was head football coach and cross country coach at Jones from 1998-2004. Coach Fox tragically passed away earlier this year, and his death sent ripples of heartache throughout the community. This loss was the motivation that Jake needed to pursue his life long dream to be a coach. Coach Fielder says, “I thought, ‘I’m about to turn 30. Why am I not doing what I want to do?’ I had always wanted to teach and coach. If there was one school where I could coach cross country, it would be Jones. This program means everything to me.”
If there was one school where I could coach cross country, it would be Jones. This program means everything to me.
Being able to start coaching where his father started his head coaching career is very special to Jake. “I teach English, and we are all about 1st Act and 3rd Act symmetry. It kind of feels like that to an extent.” He is not the only progeny of Coach Fox living out his legacy. Younger brother, Levi Fox, started his coaching career this year too, as a defensive coach for the Jones High School football team. Little sister Tabi Fox (and also Jones State Champ in Cross Country) has transferred schools and is running for Deer Creek, where their father finished his coaching career. “It feels like we are all carrying his gauntlet in our own way.”
While they all miss their father, being able to pursue their own measure of what he gave them is significant to these siblings. “There are days after meets, I would like to be able to call him. In my own way, being out here wearing Jones colors again and being with the runners, feels like I’m at least making him proud.”
In my own way, being out here wearing Jones colors again and being with the runners, feels like I’m at least making him proud.