Track is not the No. 1 sport for Jaron Emerson.
But the Medford middle-school sprinter finds himself No. 1 in it.
Emerson, in his first year of competition at McLoughlin, is the national leader — yes, you read correctly — in the 200 meters for seventh-grade boys as listed on a popular track and field website, www.athletic.net.
Further, his best 100 time appears to be tops in the country, but it hasn't registered yet among the national leaders. It was accomplished on Wednesday in a meet against Hedrick of Medford and Scenic of Central Point.
Ralph Emerson, Jaron's father, said a similar lag period preceded the 200 ranking.
All of this after only four career meets for 13-year-old Jaron, whose family lives in Central Point.
"He's the fastest 200-meter runner that I have seen since I've been here," said McLoughlin track and field coach Nina Ford, who is in her 22nd year of coaching at the school and 19th as the head coach. "And he'll only get better. He can improve on his running form; it's the first time he's ever done it. But he has a great attitude and he works hard."
Jaron's leading 200 time is 24.84 seconds, which he ran against Lincoln Savage of Grants Pass on April 17. Second on the list is Harrison Daniels of Walnut Hills in Ohio, who has done 25.04. Third is the 25.14 of Kyle Lewis of First Baptist Academy in Texas.
Emerson's time in the 100 on Wednesday was 11.94 seconds. That is well ahead of four runners who share the top time of 12.04 seconds.
His second-best time — and the one currently being used on the website's 100-meter rankings — is 12.24 seconds, which is tied for 12th nationally.
All of the top marks were hand-timed, then converted. For distances under 300 meters, hand times are rounded up to the nearest 10th of a second, then 0.24 seconds is added.
"In track, it's surprising that he's as quick as he is compared to other people," said Ralph. "When he was playing other sports, like basketball and football, you could see how fast he was. He's always been fast."
Jaron begs to differ with his father.
Two years ago, he said, he wasn't very tall or fast. Then he grew 5 inches in the summer between fifth and sixth grades and his speed increased.
In football and basketball earlier this year, Jaron believed a teammate was faster. Then they got on the track and he found out otherwise.
So, he's "surprised" by the recent events, he said.
Jaron has gotten better as the season progressed for a number of reasons, among them, the purchase of track shoes and learning how to use starting blocks, how to work his hands and arms and how to maneuver the corner in the 200.
"I didn't really know exactly what we were doing when I first started," said Jaron. "But I really wanted these Nike track shoes. I like them. They're comfortable."
Jaron wasn't tardy to track because of laziness.
"He does everything," said Ralph. "We don't stop. He's making us get old."
Jaron is the youngest of four sons of Ralph and Laurie Emerson. The other three, who are in their 20s, mostly pursued interests outside of athletics. Their little brother is the opposite.
He's a 5-foot-5, 122-pound running back and safety in football, a forward in basketball and — just recently to take advantage of his speed — a center fielder and leadoff hitter in baseball (he used to pitch and play shortstop).
Ralph's passion is baseball. He played it, has been a fan of it and coaches the South Medford middle school team on which his son plays. Track was never his thing.
Laurie, on the other hand, ran track in high school and a little bit in college.
"My mom always did track and she wanted me to do it, too," said Jaron. "She always talked about it, and I kind of got the idea I wanted to try it. Now I really like it."
Ralph occasionally needled his wife about track athletes. Not anymore.
"Now that he's getting good at track, I'm getting nothing but heat at home," laughed Ralph.
He joked, of course, adding that whatever activity Jaron involves himself in, Mom and Dad will be supportive.
"If it's baseball season," said Ralph, "he'll be out having fun playing baseball. If it's track, he'll be out having fun doing track. I'm sure when I pull into the driveway tonight, he'll be out shooting hoops. These kids just have fun."
Jaron hasn't established grandiose goals in light of his running success. The middle school district meet is next week, with prelims on Thursday in Grants Pass and the finals Saturday at South Medford High.
"I'm pretty happy with what I have now," he said.
But he wouldn't mind "flattening out" his 100 time, to something like 11.20 or 11.30.
Next year, he plans to again do baseball and track in the spring, and he'd like to follow suit in high school.
"Track helps with other sports," he said, "and I've been playing baseball since I was 4."
Either way, his speed will prove handy.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Young sprinter is tops in nation
Track is not the No. 1 sport for Jaron Emerson.