By MIKE BLACKERBY
The 2021 season was all about motivation and ultimately sweet redemption for Maryville senior Andie-Marie Jones, the 5Star Preps girls cross-country Runner of the Year.
Turn back the clock to 2020.
Jones was primed to defend the Region 2 title she won as a sophomore and improve on her fifth-place finish at the state meet.
About a week before the 2020 region meet Jones had her season rudely cut short when she was COVID contact traced.
“That is scarred into my brain,” said Jones.
“As soon as I found out I cried a lot – for about two weeks straight.”
The crying finally stopped, but then the motivation kicked in.
That never left Jones as she prepared for 2021 and her final season in a Lady Rebels uniform.
“That definitely motivated me for this year,” said Jones.
“I just really wanted to make up for what I missed. There had to be some kind of reason (for what happened), but I don’t know what it was.”
The highly motivated Jones more than made up for the lost postseason of 2020.
She won the Region 3-AAA individual title in dominating fashion, finishing the 5K race in 17 minutes, 48 seconds.
Teammate Gracie Franklin was well back in second, more than a minute behind.
At the state meet in Hendersonville, Jones ran 18:16.20 to place third behind Kyra Hayes (18:05.3) of Siegel and Ann-Marie Braese (18:06.7) of Arlington.
First-year Maryville cross-country coach Douglas Martin said it was an eye-opening experience to watch the way Jones attacked her senior season with a vengeance.
“It was my first year coaching her and cross country at Maryville, but I had always heard about her drive and determination,” said Martin.
“It was my first year to experience it and it was just awesome. It’s gratifying as a coach to have an athlete like Andie-Marie come out every day and have that drive at practice,” continued Martin.
“I’m so proud of the way she has finished her high school cross country career. It was such a blessing for me as a first-year coach at Maryville and I’m so excited for her.”
Jones takes that drive and determination with her to Tennessee next season.
She signed with UT in November to run cross country and track for the Lady Vols.
Martin said the same traits that carried Jones through her redemption year as a senior will serve her well in college, where he predicted the sky is the limit.
“Because of her strength and mental drive,” said Martin, “I think you will see a lot of progress be made by her at Tennessee.”