Saturday morning, runners rallied on 4th street to race in the 11th Longhorn Stampede. Started in 2011, the tradition took a two-year hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with the resurgence of the Jones Cross Country team under the direction of Coach Jake Fielder, the race was back with a bang last fall.
The 2023 Stampede boasted a total of 168 runners (up from 142 runners last fall) for the 5K and 1-mile Fun Run. There were runners of all ages, ranging from five years old all the way to 81. The race changed course this year, staying South of Main Street and routing runners along the IOOF Cemetery on Wilshire and Hiwassee Road.
The proceeds of the race benefit both the Cross County and Track programs at Jones Public Schools. Funds are used to pay for uniforms, team dinners, running camp, and travel expenses for the State Track Meet. The 2023-2024 Cross Country Team has 43 runners this year. With two meets behind them this year, the boys are ranked #3 in the State, and the girls are ranked in the Top 20. The team is looking to defend their conference crown next week at North Rock Creek. A couple of runners to watch this season are seniors Ripken Wallace and Joseph Walker, who are both competing for all-state medals. The boys are the first to be with Coach Fielder all four years he has coached the program. Izzy Thompson is a freshman that consistently finishes races in the Top 10. Coach Fielder reports that she too may get an All-State medal at only 14 years old.
Perhaps the furriest participant was a sweet dog named Hank. Unbeknownst to his owners, he jumped the fence to joined the fun. After sniffing out a few runners, he stayed the course completing the entire 5K. Because he missed the deadline for early registration, Hank’s time was not officially counted. However, seeing his diligence to complete the course and his enthusiasm in encouraging the other participants, he was awarded a medal at the end.
“As a runner, it was a lot of fun to see people enjoying it. Earlier in the summer, I went to a running camp hosted by the Jones Cross Country Team. Students learned how to pace their self, proper technique, running stretches and different skills. My favorite part about running and races like this are seeing all of the people gather together to run for some thing they’ve been training for and the smiles on their faces when they finish. I’ve been training with my dad for the last six weeks. We came out to the trails three times a week and practiced different techniques for running. I’ve had a lot of fun with him during these past few weeks getting to spend time with him and strengthening my ability to run. The hardest part of running is knowing when to stop. I lose track of time very easily, so that’s why I use a watch.”