Bulldogs’ Jonna Ferrell is on fire

Doddridge County sprinter Jonna Ferrell is a bilingual athlete in an unconventional sense. She speaks English, but also is well versed in the language of speed.

The Bulldogs’ sophomore always has been fast. During her time at Doddridge County Middle School, she would race the boys in gym class and her teacher would laugh because she regularly “smoked them,” in her own words.

Nothing changed as she moved up to the high-school level. She currently is in the midst of a dominant season running the 1, 2, and 400 along with long jumping for legendary coach Craig Kellar.

Meet and school records have bent to her greatness. She owns DCHS marks in all three sprint events.

She “technically” owns the state record in the 100 meter dash too. A run of 12.35 seconds in April’s Gazette Relays, which broke Fayetteville sprinter Jasmine Cotton’s meet mark, put her .07 seconds ahead of Cotton’s state-championship time.

However in order for the time to become official, she has to run it at the state meet.

“She is a lot like D’Andra Swiger (another Doddridge County athlete),”said Kellar. “They both have a great attitude toward competition, which I like.”

Her game face shows.

The lowest finish in her four main events this season was a bronze effort in the 400 at Doddridge hosts Harrison.

“I did not,” said Ferrell when asked if she saw her success coming this season. “When coach Bobby and everybody were telling me I had the chance to break records I didn’t think I would be breaking them at every meet. I didn’t think I was going to get the school records either until my junior or senior year at least in the 400 because it is such a hard race. I didn’t think I would get below a minute but coach Kellar told me I could. Then when it happened I was shocked and pleased.”

Kellar also was surprised by the records. He remembers one particular conversation with boys’ coach Bobby Burnside about Ferrell before the season got underway.

“Coach Burnside told me ‘I think she is going to break Monica Knight’s 1982 record in the 100,” said Kellar. “And I said well maybe by the time she is a senior. But, she broke it just a few meets into the season. Then when she broke those two records (100, 400) and Cotton’s in the Gazette I knew this was new territory for us.”

Kellar and Ferrell’s skepticism was understandable. The standout didn’t officially start training for track and field until this season. She had played softball and basketball in the past too. An overhaul of her diet and nutrition approach along with trips to Gorilla Strength in Nutters Fort became her routine.

“I did train some last year,” said Ferrell. “But mostly to get ready for meets, but this year I trained right out of basketball.”

The results were immediate.

Ferrell recorded her personal best in the 100 and 200 at the opening meet and then the special performance in the 400 sealed her event schedule.

Her coach remembers well the record 400 run at the Cline Stansberry Invitational. “She got a pretty good lead on Williamstown’s Lilly McMullen but down in the far turn McMullen made a move on her,” said Kellar. “All of a sudden she looked over but still brought it on in. I thought “This is just a pretty good runner here. Even better than we thought.”

Coach and pupil shared a smile after the race. “I knew it was going to be a really good season,” said Ferrell.

The rest of the state must have the same feeling. A lot of track fans and athletes from other schools are paying attention to what she is doing this season. “People come up to me all the time and I have no idea who they are,” she said. “They will tell me good job and that is pretty cool. It makes it fun to run.”

For those who don’t know about her, they receive an introduction today and Saturday at the state meet. Four state championship aren’t out of the realm of possibility. Runwv.com has her predicted to win four titles.

“All the jitters are gone and I am way more confident then I was last season,” said Ferrell.

“It is awesome where she is at right now,” said Kellar.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.