In the world of elite athletics, hitting a plateau can provide a daunting challenge.
Having that plateau last a full four years — well, that’s enough to make any athlete throw in the towel.
Thankfully, for her sake, Laurentian University swimmer Emily Jones did not succumb, and now, she is reaping the benefits.
“I had four years without a personal best time,” the Orangeville native said. “All through high school it was horrible. My mom always told me to just keep going.”
Small surprise there. Jones is a product of a “swimming family,” by her own admission.
“My mom and all of her brothers were swimmers, Mom was a swim coach, her parents were swim coaches — I was kind of raised in swimming,” Jones said.
With dreams of becoming an Orangeville Otter as soon as possible, Jones was quickly immersed, racing her first race at the age of five.
By her early teens, she seemed well on her way, consistently placing within the top handful of backstroke specialists in the province.
“The progression was set for nationals,” Jones said. “I was on my way — only I took a few more years to get there.”
As she now prepares to enter her fourth year as a member of the Lady Aqua Vees, Jones has really hit her stride, checking off all of her season-long goals as she completed the 2011-2012 season.
In fact, she now looks upon her lengthy plateau as being something of a blessing in disguise.
“A lot of swimmers, by the time they hit university, they are already at their peak,” Jones said. “When I got to university, that’s when I started getting the national times, having success again. I don’t look back on the plateau and think that it was wasted time.”
Not wasted, but a challenging time? Most certainly. A situation that was not necessarily made any easier when her mother is also her primary swim coach.
“It was my mom’s job to just keep me going,” Jones said with a smile, now enjoying the additional widsom that elapsed time can provide.
In fairness, Jones, who is the eldest of two girls in the family, pointed out that Laurentian swim coach Phil Parker could benefit from certain pragmatic advantages that her mother could not duplicate back home.
“I swam more times a week (at LU), just because the opportunity in Orangeville isn’t there to swim seven times a week,” she said. “I do a lot more mileage here.”
Working closely with both Parker and former assistant coach Alain Delorme, Jones began to see light at the end of the tunnel.
“I had the swimming ability, that wasn’t an issue,” she said. “But I needed to get my strength up, my explosiveness.”
As the pieces fell nicely into place, the results surpassed the expectations of athlete and coach alike.
“I’m sure that I’ve surprised (coach Parker) in a lot of ways, but I think he knew the potential was there,” Jones said.
Cracking the podium at the OUA Championships in February, she followed up by capturing the B final in the 100-m backstroke at the Canadian Interuniversity Championships in Montreal.
Her spring and summer competitions have been outstanding, with Jones placing well at the Olympic Trials, also in Montreal, and finishing 12th in two separate events at Summer Nationals in Edmonton.
“I’m hoping I can improve even more,” Jones said. “I’m very time-focused, so obviously I would love to get my times down even more. For the (2013) CIS Championships, I want to be top eight for all of my events.”
More solid payback for the perseverance on a plateau that paved the way for future success.