Cardinal Ritter College Prep's Charles Jones and ROTC's Michael Wells entire the first leg, as it were, of the high school track and field season this spring as two of the most accomplished and celebrated runners in the city of St. Louis, the greater metropolitan area and the state of Missouri.
Both of them captured individual state championships in their respective state classifications and also led their school relay teams to state titles the last two seasons as sophomores and juniors. Now as they progressed further into their senior campaigns, their races will be against records and legacies more so than opponents. This weekend both will compete in meets with a bevy of large-school standouts: Jones, a middle-distance ace, will compete in a prestigious meet, the Kansas University Relays with top performers from the entire Midwest region.
Meanwhile Wells, a speed merchant, will run in a Kirkwood High invitational in South St. Louis County, which will feature the best of the entire St. Louis metropolitan area, save for Charles Jones and only a few other standout male athletes.
Jones, known as CJ, is the two-time reigning boys 800 meters state champion in Class 3 and has ran legs on the Lions' 4x400 and 4x800-meter relay state champions as well. He won the open 800 meters at the 2013 state championships in 1:50.33, just a tad slower than his winning state-record clocking of 1:49.96 in 2012. For good measure, he won the 17-and under 1,500 meters in 4 minutes, 2.59 seconds at the Junior Olympics last summer. Typically he also won his specialty, the 800 meters at the same event with a time just under 1:50. Earlier this winter he signed a scholarship letter of intent with Texas Tech University in the Big 12.
"He is a tremendous sign for our program," said Texas Tech coach Wes Kittley in a statement released by the university. "Charles has the kind of talent and character that champions are made of. I can't tell you how thrilled I am to have him become a Red Raider.
In addition to his head coach at Ritter, Ruben Albright, Jones is also coached by his father Chico Jones, a fitness guru of sorts. For his work as an assistant basketball coach and conditioning coordinator at the University of Missouri- St. Louis for over 30 years, Jones is in the UMSL Sports Hall of Fame "for exceptional contributions". Suffice to say, it appears that Jones has done an "exceptional" job coaching his son, an honor the elder Jones is proud of.
"Just having the opportunity to coach, train and watch my son CJ perform from a 5-year old to the present has been a blessing for me," said Chico Jones. "Having the chance to watch him fail and learn how to succeed through his failures has made life a joy for me."
At the same time, Jones will be taking his talents to Lubbock, Texas and the Big 12 Conference next season, Wells will be taking his talents to a rival Big 12 school, the Oklahoma Sooners. Wells won the 100 (10.79 seconds) and the 200 meters (22.02) and ran leadoff leg in the Commanders 4x200-meter relay state champion and anchor in their 4x100-meter relay state champion in the Missouri Class 2 state meet last spring, even though he endured a spring of sporadic leg injuries. For as a healthier super sophomore, Wells captured the 100-meter title in 10.75 seconds.
Based on his limited indoor season this winter, Wells seems primed for another banner campaign. At the Mizzou Big River Running Series he won the 60 meters in 6.78 seconds and the 200 meters in 22.05.