Jones in ‘big leagues’ now
Truckee’s Sarah Jones has come a long way from the first time she picked up a softball.
“I think it helps that people doubted me. It pushed me harder,” said the 1998 Tahoe-Truckee High School graduate and member of the 1999 NCAA Div. 2 national championship softball team from Humboldt State University.
After posting a 49-7-1 regular season record, The HSU team swept both the regional and national tournaments in eight wins.
Today, fresh out of her first year of college, she proudly talks about the difference between winning a state championship and winning a national championship.
“It’s such a dramatic change,” Sarah said. “We’re number one out of 240 teams in the United States. There were 300 people with flowers and T-shirts at the airport (in Arcata, Calif., after the win). The president of the school was there. It put us on the map.”
Sarah’s father, Ed, adds, “And it puts Truckee on the map, too. It really reflects on the support of the town and people in it.”
Looking back to her days coming up in Truckee sports, Sarah remembers her experience fondly.
The coaches in Truckee? “Love them,” Sarah said. “When you get to college, the coach looks at you and says, ‘welcome to the big leagues. There’s no excuses; you can’t be late.’ It’s such a big difference.”
While Sarah admits boys’ sports in Truckee have been emphasized – thanks to domination from TTHS football and boys’ basketball – she said the girls are starting to get their day in the sun, as well. She pointed out TTHS girls’ soccer (which has won consecutive state championships for half a decade) as a prime example.
She also said support from Truckee residents has boosted girls’ sports.
“I think all the support throughout the community has helped,” said Sarah, who played soccer, basketball, softball and volleyball in Truckee. “Without the support and the donations, there wouldn’t be a softball team; there wouldn’t be any girls’ teams for us to look upon, so it helps a great deal.”
She named coaches Danelle Mays and Jon Western as influential figures in Truckee softball.
As for Humboldt State, she said even if she didn’t play softball, she would return for the academics.
“I love it,” she said.
While the HSU team was expected to do well the last three years, it hasn’t worked out until this year, fortunately for Sarah.
She said the 7-2 win against Nebraska for the championship was not the toughest bump in the road; adding that Kennesaw State (Georgia) gave HSU its toughest challenge, as did the trip to the finals in Salem, Va.
The team’s plane was rerouted and delayed; then there weren’t enough tickets for a connecting flight. After that, there was too much weight on the plane, so the team’s gear had to be unloaded, so the bags traveled separately. Then, their tickets were sold for another flight, so the team took a five-hour bus ride to find that their gear wasn’t there.
After hours of wrangling, the gear finally arrived and the girls made it to their hotel.
“It was a very inauspicious start,” Ed said, laughing.
In the end, it was worth it, Sarah said.
“What I like about stepping up to college – they’re all out there to play. No one wants to lose.”
So, how do you live up to expectations after winning a national championship on your first go-round?
Sarah has big plans for life. She wants to go on to be an early childhood and special education. She doesn’t reject the idea of one day coaching little girls in softball.
In parting, Sarah offers advice to young girls in Truckee: “Don’t ever give up. You’re the only person who can push yourself.
“They might tell you you’re good, they might tell you you’re bad; but you have to believe in yourself.”
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The Truckee baseball team came up shy of a state championship last weekend, falling in Saturday’s title game to Virgin Valley.