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By Gary Brown
Washington and Jefferson men’s and women’s water polo coach Greg Jones is looking for a little exercise before the fall semester really kicks into gear. So on August 29, he’s going to swim for two and a half miles, bike 112 more and then run a full marathon.
Now that’s a full day.
“It will take more than 13 hours to complete. It will be the longest single-day athletics event I’ve ever done,” Jones said. “It’s not for the novice.”
Washington and Jefferson water polo coach Greg Jones pounds the pavement
Jones, an experienced marathon runner, has trained almost a year for the Ford Ironman competition in Louisville. His regimen includes four days per week of biking, three days of running, two for weight training and another two for swimming (that adds up to about 11 days a week).
It will be the second endurance event Jones will have conquered in Kentucky. His long-term goal is to run marathons in all 50 states. So far, he’s scratched nine off the list.
His first was the “Flying Pig” marathon in Cincinnati (aptly named for the city’s historical propensity for pork products) in May 2005.
At that time, Jones was working on his undergraduate degree in exercise physiology at the Ohio University and playing on the club water polo team there. Since it was a fall sport, he needed something to do in the spring when the physical pace was less intense. A buddy who ran marathons urged Jones to join him.
“I had said I always wanted to do at least one sometime in my life,” Jones said. “When I ran the one in Cincinnati, it kind of stuck.”
He also ran the “Pig” in 2008 and 2009. His list this year includes the “Goofy Challenge” at Disney World in January, which was a half marathon on Saturday and full marathon on Sunday held in the five parks in Florida. His latest escapade was the Ridge Runner Marathon in West Virginia in June, which Jones said was the toughest he’s run so far.
Washington and Jefferson water polo coach Greg Jones in action
He has qualified for the Boston Marathon but has yet to compete there, or at the New York Marathon. He wants to do both, but they conflict with the women’s water polo season in the spring. “I’ll figure it out,” he said.
An avid training specialist, Jones has been a strength coach at various facilities in addition to coaching water polo at Salem International and now at Washington and Jefferson. His understanding of how the body reacts under pressure and during endurance training has transferred nicely to his ability to teach student-athletes how to excel in the pool.
In addition to his undergraduate degree, Jones also has a master’s in coaching education from Ohio. He wrote his thesis on the disparities among Divisions I, II, and III water polo teams.
He’s certainly witnessed some disparity in the talent level between Divisions I and III, since he has played against some of the more elite programs. However, Jones said Division III is on the way up.
“The athletics scholarships and larger budgets in Division I make it difficult for a Division III program to ever be able to compete with those teams,” he said. “But the talent level in Division III is increasing now that more Division III schools are offering the sport and giving prospects more options.”
In women’s water polo, Division III teams in the Collegiate Water Polo Association (of which Washington and Jefferson is a member) have formed their own division and are competing among themselves. That helps, too, Jones said, since it gives water polo enthusiasts in Division III a chance to compete on a level playing pool.
The teams at Washington and Jefferson are among the school’s 24-sport, broad-based program. “They certainly help round out the sport offerings on campus,” Jones said.
Washington and Jefferson water polo coach Greg Jones with the women's team
Legendary Washington and Jefferson swimming coach Mike Orstein began the water polo programs after securing grant dollars from the USOC in 1999. Jones is the fourth head coach in the program’s history.
“It’s an attractive option at the Division III level,” Jones said. “I have a number of prospects who love the fact that we are a Division III school, since it allows women to perhaps run cross country in the fall and men to perhaps swim in the winter and still maintain that focus on academics that Division III schools are known for.”
Now Jones is bringing even more notoriety to the school for his ability to go the distance.
“He is a high-energy guy, as you might imagine,” said Scott McGuinness, the school’s sports information director.
While Jones will be expending a lot of that energy this week in Louisville, expect him to have enough left for the upcoming seasons.
After all, college sports is a marathon, not a sprint.