Dani Jones (Psych, SLHS’20) is the NCAA’s current women’s individual cross-country champion. She talks here about her first rival, winning in the snow and the joy of maximum speed.
Going into cross-country nationals, you weren’t the favorite. What were your expectations?
I wasn’t a huge underdog. I needed to give myself a shot. It happened to be my day.
Were the championships in Wisconsin cold?
It was breezy and there was a layer of snow. They cleared off the first and last 50 meters of the course. There were people slipping and falling. But the temperature wasn’t horrible.
You’ve mentioned that cross-country isn’t your ideal race. Why?
I’ve always considered myself a miler. But 6K isn’t that far. I’ve put the miles in and run workouts to be capable of longer races. The mile’s more my favorite than my strength.
What makes the mile your favorite?
That ‘I can’t go any faster’ feeling. There’s a lot of strategy. And a lot of bumping around, physical contact and jostling.
What singular advice has Coach Wetmore given you?
Mark’s not a hoo-rah, in-your-face, really excited kind of coach. Our team is known for going to the line calm and confident. I don’t get nervous anymore to where I’m going to throw up. I go in thinking this is the easiest part.
When you’re in season, how much mileage are you doing each week?
Probably 70 miles. The most I’ll run at once is 15. We do workouts on the grass where we’re running faster and easy days where I’m running for an hour talking to teammates.
What’s the longest you’ve gone without running since you came to CU?
I run every day during season. We get two weeks off between each season. Maybe a month total out of the year I step back from training and thinking about running. I stay off the articles and videos and give myself time with family to veg out.
Do you spend as much time on recovery as you do running?
If anything, it’s more recovery. I spend one to two hours a day running, and then, whenever I get the chance, I work on recovery. My roommates say I spend half my life on my living room floor — stretching and rolling – trying to heal.
How do you stay in tune with your body throughout a run?
I push myself throughout. But once I get into a rhythm, my mind can wander. I think about friends and family. It’s almost meditating.
What CU alumni have helped you?
[Olympian] Jenny Simpson (Econ, PolSci’09) has been great. She’s exactly 10 years older than me. I had the opportunity to get off the college circuit for a semester and do some pro races. She was wonderful. I call her if something’s bothering me. She’s been through everything I’m going through.
Do you have a favorite trail around Boulder?
We’re spoiled. The hardest part is deciding where to run. There are gorgeous places on the way to Nederland. I’m a fan of Dowdy Draw. Getting off a dead, flat track is good for strengthening your ankles and feet.
Your younger sister Baylee is on the team. Do you run together?
I love running with her when I can. She’s the reason I started running. My parents said she’d beat me in a mile, so I had to stick my nose in there. If I could pick one person who I wouldn’t mind too much if she beat me, it would be Bay.
What do you do with your free time?
Get out and see Colorado. But my biggest activity is eating. Going out to brunch. The distance runners are all really good cooks.
What’s something people may not know about you?
I ate a waffle the size of the plate, with peanut butter and syrup, before cross-country nationals. That’s my go-to. I want to be a speech therapist after I run, but my ideal career would be to open a breakfast place in a small Colorado town.
Condensed and edited.