HRVHS Alum Erin Jones wins USA Triathlon National Championship

Now sets sights on 2016 Rio Olympics

Erin Jones with dad Tony after winning the USA Triathlon National Championship.


Erin Jones with dad Tony after winning the USA Triathlon National Championship.

Former Hood River Valley High School cross country, swimming and track standout Erin Jones is making serious headway in the world of professional triathlons. Representing the Elite Training Academy in Colorado Springs, the 2009 HRVHS graduate won the biggest triathlon of her career last month – the Collegiate National Championship.

The win gives Jones momentum as she sets her sights and dedicates much of her life toward qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. With global aspirations, the small-town athlete is striving to be one of the very few who have gone on to represent Hood River on the world’s biggest stage.

Her humble roots track back to when she was about eight years old and began swimming on the Hood River Valley Swim Team. In addition to swimming, she went on to join the cross country and track teams as a three-sport high school athlete, where she quickly excelled.

Former high school running coach, Kristen Uhler, remembers Jones’ character. “She was a real competitor and hated to lose. You’ve got to have that desire and passion if you are going to push the limits of pain. Erin was not just a docile girl who did whatever you told her; she’s got a mind of her own. She’s very assertive. It was challenging as a coach, but totally enjoyable.”

As a standout runner and swimmer, triathlons seemed like a natural extension of her athletic abilities, which prompted Uhler – a former triathlete herself – to make the suggestion.

“She mentioned it one day and I thought that we might as well try it out,” said Erin’s father, Tony. “That’s where it started.”

“I encouraged her and gave her some of my old shoes,” Uhler said. “I knew she just needed to pick up the bike. Usually if you are a good runner you tend to be pretty good at the bike … Erin participated in some age group level triathlons and performed very well, even placing 6th at Junior Nationals.”

After that, Tony says, she “got the bug for it.”

After graduating high school, Jones continued her running career on the Oregon State University cross country team. She also still found some time to do triathlons during her summers.

She explained that, after running for three years for OSU, she heard about the Elite Triathlon Academy, an exclusive program that works to develop young triathletes into future Olympians.

“I emailed my times and said I swam in high school and ran in college, but I didn’t really have any bike experience,” she said. “I wanted to come out and see the sport because I really liked triathlons. When I went out there, they liked what they saw and brought me out.”

The opportunity was one she felt like she couldn’t pass up, she left OSU, her friends and family to attend the one of the most elite programs of its kind in the country. While leaving was a hard choice, Jones says, “I feel like I really found my calling.”

The Elite Training Academy operates in Colorado Springs, at the Olympic Training Center, and gives athletes access to the top training facilities, programs, and coaches in the country. The program is intended to keep young triathletes competing and growing in the sport while going through college. She takes her classes at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, but unlike most collegiate athletes, she must balance college classes with simultaneously training for three athletic disciplines and a competition schedule that takes her all around the country and sometimes the world.

“We usually train everything every day,” she explained. “A typical day would be to swim 5,000 meters, usually from 7:15-8:30 a.m. After that we get a break to do whatever we want; then we usually do a two-hour bike workout followed by maybe an eight-mile run.”

The new training program is helping the pieces fall into place for Jones. Her biking has made huge improvements in her first year and she earned her triathlon pro card at the USA Triathlon Age Groups in LA by winning the amateur division, which allows her to compete in international races.

In April, she competed in the Collegiate National Championship, where she finished first.

“I knew my swimming was good,” she said. I came out of the water second and just made the bike back and then was confident enough in my running and took off. That was the first race that I’ve ever won, so I was super excited and the happiest I could have been.”

Jones kept the momentum rolling the following week at the Continental Cup, where she had another podium finish.

“The next weekend I went to Barbados and got third for USA, which is super good for an international meet,” she said. Her next major race is in Dallas in June, where she will be competing for a spot to participate in the U23 World Championships in London in September.

Ultimately, Jones has her sights set on getting to the Olympics in 2016. The road to Rio won’t be easy, but her dad and former coach both agree that she’s capable of it.

A lot can happen in the next three years, but Kristen says, “She has the right mentality for it; she has the ability to endure pain. That’s just the way she races and you need to have those qualities if you are going to be good.”

While she evolves as a professional triathlete, Jones hasn’t forgotten all the people who helped her get to the level she is at now. “Thanks to everyone who supported me throughout this process from Hood River,” she said. “They were super supportive when I was growing up and there are a lot of people out there who helped me and my family. And a big thanks to my dad for always being there for me.”

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Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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