Senior Sharifa Jones raises expectations after stellar junior year
Sharifa Jones, winner of the 2003 Most Improved Athlete Award, is working even harder this season, proving to be an invaluable asset to the Wildcat women's track and field team.
The Marietta, Ga. native earned the award as she lowered her time in her weakest event, the 100-meter hurdles, from 14.40 to 13.86 seconds over the course of a year.
Though Jones ranked 10th nationally in the long jump, 17th in the 60-meter hurdles and 19th in the 100-meter hurdles in 2003, she is still not satisfied.
"I'm much stronger and faster than last year and should definitely improve on my marks," Jones said. "I want to be in the top eight in all my individual events. I want to medal this year."
She hopes that with the help of this season's more strenuous workouts and lifting sessions, along with high expectations from head coach Fred Harvey, she will be able to improve her standings on the national level.
"I'm very critical of myself," Jones said. "In other people's eyes, I'm doing great, but I always see things I need to improve on."
Jones began to improve shortly after transferring to Arizona from the University of Michigan in 2002.
"Coming from Atlanta to Michigan, the climate was a drastic change," she said. "The training didn't suit me and my times were reflected."
Jones explained that at Michigan, practices were held indoors, but competitions took place outdoors. Jones said she needed a school with a more consistent training program.
She said she owes her average performances at Michigan to "not having a constant coach."
"I've always gone from team to team, and that is why I peaked late as an athlete," Jones said. "If I had a consistent coach, I'd have faster times than I do now."
Jones hopes to have found a permanent home with the Wildcats, under the direction of Harvey.
"(Jones is) the ultimate athlete and a great student with mental focus," Harvey said. "As a coach, you have to be careful with what you tell her because she will do exactly that."
Frank Williams, Jones' summer coach in Atlanta, also recognizes her intense drive.
"When you have someone like Sharifa on your team, it makes everyone else want to do better," Williams said. "She is very disciplined and dedicated to whatever goals she sets for herself, and she has the ability to work well under adversity and pressure."
Jones is currently juggling the stresses of a track career and the academic demands of her physiological sciences major. If this were not enough, Jones is striving to once again qualify for the Olympic trials, as she did last year.
"I hardly have a life due to balancing track and my major," she said. "It's pretty hard, but it can be done."