Rough ride for Ruff Riders in Calif.

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sir Paul Jones may be the best college-bound hurdler in the nation, but it will take some time for even him to get over this.

In a wild and bitter -- and sweet -- 24-hour ride, Sir Paul won a national title, sprained his hamstring and stumbled on the track, accepted a scholarship to the University of South Carolina and then was robbed blind, losing everything from his clothes, phone, wallet, medals -- and even his team state championship ring from Monroe High.

"I don't even want to talk about it. It makes me sick,'' said Sir Paul, who was part of the Albany Ruff Riders Track Club that competed in the U.S.A. Track & Field National Junior Olympics in Sacramento during the weekend.

Sir Paul won the 400-meter hurdles national title, then he hit the second hurdle and went spinning onto the track, straining his hamstring in the 110-hurdle final on Sunday to finish eighth.

After the meet ended, he made his decision to accept a scholarship from South Carolina, over a long list of schools that wanted the All-American, and then headed home with his teammates and his father, Paul Jones, who coaches the Ruff Riders.

The team's name took on a whole new meaning after the rough trip.

"We stopped to eat about 75 miles outside of Sacramento and our van was robbed,'' Paul Jones said on Monday as he was driving back to Albany. "They got everything, all the bags, phones, laptops, the kids' medals -- everything.

"They were pros. They were good. They're good in California,'' he said. "They must have seen us coming. The (stripped) the entire lock off the door to the van. I guess we were too country for that group. They took off the whole lock and got everything. I am just so disgusted.''

The team -- 14 girls and six boys -- made the trip in two vans, but only one van was robbed.

Mimieux Land, who won the national high jump title and finished sixth in the nation in the long jump, still has her medals. Land's father, mother and brother made the trip and her brother -- 10-year-old Dan -- was wearing her medals around his neck when the team stopped to eat.

The Ruff Riders had a productive meet on the track. Broddrick Snoody finished second in the 100-meter dash and Justin Scott, who won the Class AA state title in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes, finished third. Scott and others had a difficult time competing in the 50-degree weather, and Paul Jones said the cold weather affected all the times, and said those two might have gone 1-2 in the nation in hot weather.

Scott, Snoody, Sir Paul and Rontavius Hill finished second in the nation in the 4x100 relay, and Maikea Davis, who will be a junior at Monroe along with Land, finished third in the girls 200-meter dash.

Sir Paul. a USA Today All-American, had been waiting all summer to decide his future, and had to weigh offers from a long list of colleges, including Florida, LSU, Georgia and about every SEC school. He also had several offers from schools around the nation, but always felt it would be better to stay close to home, and was always leaning toward SEC schools.

"I wanted to go to an SEC school,'' Sir Paul said. "There were a lot of college coaches (in Sacramento) and when it was over I just got with South Carolina and told them that's where I wanted to go. They had all their coaches there to watch me.

"I talked to quite a few coaches, and I had a long list of schools, but I made the right choice,'' he said. "They have a great program and a great hurdlers coach, and they put in a lot of time trying to get me. When I visited the school (in the spring) I felt that's where I wanted to be.''

And as for the wild ride?

"It will take a while to get over it,'' Sir Paul said. "It always feels great to win a national championship, and I'm happy about South Carolina. I just can't get over the van getting broken into and losing everything.''