Rayniah Jones is making strides towards her Olympic dreams.
“When that gun goes off, all my nervousness goes away and I just focus on getting to the finish line,” said the Olympic Track & Field hopeful.
The 19-year-old track and field athlete is hoping to head to the Tokyo Olympics to compete in hurdles.
"I didn’t expect that I would be this far into it. The Olympic trials are not every year. It’s something that comes around every couple of years, so just to be here is something that I’m so grateful for. It’s a whole different experience. It’s an exciting experience,” said Jones.
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Jones attended Miami Southridge Senior High School. After winning many accolades in high school, she was then recruited by the University of Central Florida (UCF) in her junior year.
“I’m really happy that I can be putting on for my city back home. The support from back home means so much and having it here at UCF as well,” said Jones.
When Jones competes, she is graceful as she glides over hurdles at top speeds, but she stumbled onto the sport in fifth grade.
“I had field day and that’s when I realized I had a bit of speed. When I got in middle school, I saw my friends joining sports, so I was like, you know, I think I run fast, let me try out for track. I didn’t even have any track shoes. I had like one pair of sneakers and I just went out there and I ran,” said Jones.
Since then, she had a vision for the future.
“When I was younger and I first started track I had my mind on the Olympics. I was like, I’m going to go, I’m going to go,” said Jones.
Jones excels in both athletics and academics at UCF. She was just awarded athlete of the year by UCF and got second place in the recent NCAA outdoor championships. Although she’s humble and doesn’t consider herself a role model, she had a message for young women starting out in the sport.
“I’m just like a regular 19-year-old who has a very strong love for track. I definitely have to say that you can do anything that you put your mind to. Anything you put your mind to, just believe it because you’re your biggest supporter and biggest believer,” said Jones.
Jones will be competing in the Track and Field Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon from June 18-27. She is hoping to make it through to Tokyo.
Update, June 21: Rayniah Jones came close, finishing 10th in the semifinals of the 100-meter hurdles. The top nine advanced to Sunday's final, according to UCF Knights.