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One to Watch: Akela Jones

Track star turned opportunity into Olympic dream

Akela Jones
School: Kansas State University
Sport: Track and Field, Women's Heptathlon

Akela Jones grew up in Barbados and competed as a three-sport athlete in track and field, volleyball and netball. Even at a young age, she showed promise as an athlete: She won 16 medals in the Caribbean Free Trade Association Games. At the 2012 Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships, Jones won the U-17 high jump with a record-breaking jump of 1.81 meters (5 feet, 11 ¼ inches), a record which still stands today. That same year, Jones enrolled at Oklahoma Baptist University, a member of the NAIA at the time, where she set nine school records, won 12 national championships, claimed 19 All-America honors . Jones transferred to Kansas State University after her sophomore season.

When to Watch: The women's heptathlon will begin at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time today.

Why we're Cheering: College sports opened the door for Jones to train in the United States at Oklahoma Baptist; Kansas State then set the stage for her to become an Olympian. Jones told NationNews of Barbados in 2014 that she believed her transfer to the Wildcats’ program would help take her skills to a new competitive level, citing the coaching and training facilities that were available there. That feeling proved accurate when she won the heptathlon in her first NCAA championships in 2015, and took third as a senior. Now, she’ll try to turn that opportunity college provided into Olympic success for Barbados.     

Others to watch today

Kia Nurse (women’s basketball, Canada): Nurse just concluded her sophomore year as a basketball student-athlete at the University of Connecticut, where she was the only player to start every game of the Huskies’ 2015-16 season. Nurse underwent sports hernia surgery shortly after helping UConn to an unprecedented fourth straight national title, but she will return to the court today for a reunion of sorts: She will face her college coach, UConn’s Gino Auriemma, and a few former teammates today when Canada takes on the United States.

Nathan Adrian (Swimming, 50-meter freestyle, USA): A University of California, Berkley, alum with a degree in public health, Adrian is returning for his third Olympics. While Adrian has several athletic accomplishments, including a gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle from the 2012 London Olympics and five individual NCAA championship wins, he is also a member of the Asian Hall of Fame, which was created by the Robert Chinn Foundation and honors outstanding Asian Pacific Americans.