Q&A: Rayniah Jones

U.S. Olympic Trials semifinalist. All-American. NCAA silver medalist. Conference champion. School record holder. The 2021 outdoor track and field season racked up the accolades on redshirt freshman Rayniah Jones' resume. As the Miami native heads into her offseason, she reflected on her spring success.

How would you describe this season?
I feel like I had an exceptional outdoor season. I couldn't have seen this coming and I'm very glad that I had this experience. I think only competing indoor last season (2020) prepared me for this outdoor season. I had fun indoor last year and wasn't really ready for outdoor. This year, with a weird indoor – we only had two meets – and then coming out here and having the greatest season I've ever had so far. I don't think I would've been prepared for that my true freshman season.
Overall, as a team, I'm very happy with what we did this year. At the conference meet, my team did what they had to do – from jumps to sprints, throws or relays. They did what they had to do and did it to their fullest potential. I know the way we practice – we practice so hard.
What's your favorite memory from this year?
My favorite memory is going hiking with Coach Boone and Mario (Rodriguez, assistant athletic trainer) in Oregon because it was such a different journey. You can't even compare it to running the 400 or anything. That was tough. I can't even believe that Coach Boone and Mario did it right there with me. That was something I will never forget.
What was it like at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials?
The Trials weren't at all like "oh my god, I'm competing with elite athletes." Everyone was just really normal. It wasn't much different than at (the NCAA Outdoor Championship). The only difference between the two was that at Trials, everybody had headphones on. If you knew somebody, you would stop and say hey, but everybody had headphones on during exercises. That's when you knew you were in a whole different atmosphere. Everyone was just way more focused on themselves.
When did it hit you that you were competing for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team?
It definitely hit me in the semifinals. I've always heard that semis is probably the hardest race to go into. I told myself, "alright, this is going to be one of the biggest races of my life so far." I was right next to Keni Harrison, too. It actually wasn't my first time racing against her – during my freshman indoor season, I raced her for the first time at Clemson. I already knew she was going to beat me, but I was l still excited to be next to the world record holder. When I came out there and I was racing next to her, I just wanted to get all of my jitters out. I knew she's a world class athlete, world record holder and I just knew I wanted to go out there and compete. I wasn't nervous because I was racing fast people. I just wanted to go out there and show everybody that even though I'm young, I can compete.
What will you work on heading into next season?
Strengthening work and form correction. As fast as I'm running, there's still so many things that I can work on, whether it's technical or just my body. I ran so much this whole outdoor season. Conference took a toll on me, running three days straight. My hamstrings are still recovering now. I definitely want to work on strengthening my muscles for next season. I know now that I'm running this fast, I'm going to have really long seasons. I plan on going to indoor nationals, World Juniors, all of those meets. I want to be strong enough for that and I want to do it all healthy. That's my main goal – be healthy and keep running to the fullest of my potential.