Portia Jones is the most talented athlete in the history of MIT Women’s Track and Field. “I have so much energy, it’s physically hard for me to sit still,” she says.
The 21-year-old senior is a 14-time All-American. She was named the New England Women’s Track Athlete of the Year four consecutive times. This year she helped lead MIT to its second New England Division III Championship in the past three years in Outdoor Track and Field. At this year’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Championship, she ranked third in the nation in the Indoor Track and Field 55-Meter High Hurdles and second in the Outdoor Track and Field 100-Meter High Hurdles.
Growing up in Queens, N.Y., Jones climbed fences and trees, roller skated, played tag and hide-and-seek. “I never was tired and always wanted to do something.” In high school, she danced hip hop and began running track. “I run to release all this energy.”
“The challenge of track is mental,” she says. “In a difficult race, you’re dying to slow down and give up. But you have to realize that the pain in your legs is just in your head, and push through.”
“She’s a great athlete,” says her coach Halston Taylor. “She’s great because of her genes. She was born with natural talent, but her hard work brings it out.”
Seldom does Jones celebrate after a win. Rather, she consoles opponents with a hug and honey words. “I hate to lose,” she says, “but I’m friends with many of my competitors and hate to see them lose.”
Jones, who volunteers at a Boston homeless shelter, dreams one day that her work will merge biology and electrical engineering and computer science to improve human health. She hopes to develop an invention, like a pacemaker or health monitor, that will one day save a life.
Meanwhile, she says, she will go snowboarding, rock climbing, and white water rafting. “I’m such a fidgeter,” she says. “I really need to do something.”