KU Scholar Athlete of the Month: Aerelle Jones

Wheels on Fire: She Burns Up the Track 

Scholar Athlete AerelleNo one knows where the idea came from, but once Aerelle Jones of Nicholasville  embraced the idea of wheelchair racing, nothing has slowed her down.

Jones, 18 and a homeschooled student, was born with Klippel-Feil IV, a bone disorder that caused malformations in her spine, which is shorter than normal.

She underwent numerous surgeries as a child and has walked with braces and crutches her whole life.

She rarely uses a wheelchair… except when she’s burning up the track. In fact, her racing blog is called “Wheels on Fire.”

In wheelchair racing, riders use a streamlined, three-wheel vehicle that looks like an old-fashioned dragster.

Aerelle bought hers in Cincinnati. She and her father, Raymond, have modified it so often they call it “Franken-chair.”

Five years ago, she started at Jessamine County Library’s Driveway to 5K program. Her goal now is the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

In the Bluegrass 10,000, she has set and broken the race record several times, and last year qualified for the Junior Nationals where she won five gold and one silver medal.

She has won the Kentucky Derby half-marathon in Louisville two years in a row, and was named a high school All-American in the 800 and 1,500 meters.

She competes in every event from the 100-meter dash to half marathons.

This summer, she qualified for the Junior Nationals again and also qualified for the U.S. Nationals, held at UCLA in June. She placed fourth, missing by one spot the U.S. team that will compete in the Junior World Championships in Switzerland.

“I really have no idea why I started to do this, but right after I did I saw the Paralympics on TV and I decided that’s what I want to do,” Aerelle said.

Along with that goal, she has other reasons for working so hard at the sport.

“I heard somewhere – and I don’t even know if it’s true – that 70% of people with handicaps have no relationship with Jesus Christ,” she said.

“I just want to get next to these people, build relationships, love on them and lead them to Christ.”

Aerelle, her parents and her four siblings are members of a Sanctuary, a local house of prayer patterned after the House of Prayer in Kansas City known for its 24/7 prayer room that has been in continuous  use since 1999.

As a homeschooler taught by her mother, Della, Aerelle studied the Classics, including Latin, logic and debate. Aerelle has a 4.16 weighted GPA, scored 24 on the ACT and is considering Taylor University in Indiana after she spends a gap year focusing on her sport.

Which has been time well spent.