Her running and jumping was limited to field day activities at the middle-school level, and when Searra Jones enrolled at Fort Dorchester High School, she still wasn't interested in competing in track and field.
She finally went out for track her sophomore year and decided to compete in the triple jump, which includes a hop, skip and jump, which resembled some steps she was learning in dance class.
Jones might not ever appear in "Dancing With the Stars" but she does have a bright track future. She had another outstanding performance at the state meet last month that earned her The Post and Courier's girls track and field athlete of the year honor.
Jones is headed to the University of South Carolina and will compete in the jumps for the Gamecocks.
She won three straight state triple jump titles, and won the state title in the long jump her junior year. She has impressive speed, too, running in the sprints for the Patriots.
In May's state meet, Jones placed fifth in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.38 seconds, and was a member of the Patriots' 4x100 relay team that finished second with a time of 48.95. She won the
triple jump with a leap of 40 feet, 1 inch, and finished third in the long jump with an effort of 17-11 1/2. She led the Patriots to a fourth-place finish in the team standings, scoring 22 of the Patriots' 46 points.
"She's an exceptional athlete," Fort Dorchester coach Kevin Bellush said. "An athlete like Searra doesn't come around too often. She works hard, and when she sees something she wants, she goes after it. She wasn't really sure if she knew how to jump, but once I saw her, I said, 'Yep, here she is.' Now, she says she almost missed her calling."
Jones captured her first state title in 2006, clearing 37-11 3/4 in the triple jump.
"It was a bit of a shock to win a state championship in my sophomore year, but it was total excitement, mostly," Jones said. "It's an amazing feeling to win a state title, and each year, the gold medal was just as special as the first one."
Last year, Jones won gold medals in the long (18-8) and triple (39-7 3/4) jumps.
Her best effort of the '08 season came at the Taco Bell Invitational when she set a meet record with an effort of 40-10.
"She's great now," Bellush said. "But she could be even greater in college. I'm sure when she goes to USC, they'll break down her technique, work with her, and she will only get better."
Jones is one of eight athletes on the first team who won state titles. The others include Ashley Tucker, Bishop England (400 meter); Brittany Jefferson, Stratford (100 hurdles); Leanna Morrison, Berkeley (400 hurdles); Jasmine Blackshear, Bluffton (high jump); Tylar Mangan, Bishop England (pole vault); Stacee Roberts, Summerville (shot put) and Te'Shell Britt, Woodland (discus).
Tony Colizzi, who led Bishop England to its eight straight Class AA state title, is the girls coach of the year.