Wilsonville — She started out a West Linn Lion, obtaining state titles as a freshman at the 6A school and generating a small amount of media attention. After the pandemic hit, Helena Jones disappeared into thin air and transferred to 5A Wilsonville. Approaching the 2022 State Championships, Jones is flirting with breaking 5A records and state records, all while being committed to an SEC powerhouse: #12 Georgia. With this type of pedigree, Jones should be one of the most talked about swimmers entering the weekend, yet she sits as Oregon’s best kept swimming secret until now. Over the weekend, the Wilsonville star talked with Elite Oregon Girls about her life in the pool, what has gotten her to where she is now, and where she goes after she leaves for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2023.
A Georgia native and born into a family of swimmers, Helena Jones has been destined to become part of the Bulldog swimming family since she was born. With natural talent and a massive support system, her successes as a swimmer should come as no surprise. “I was born in Georgia and most of my family lives there,” she said. “I started swimming at a young age because my parents had a love for the sport. I started swimming on a summer league team, then I joined a club team soon after that and have been swimming competitively for 8 years.” Reaching the point that she has comes with a certain mindset that Jones possesses with herself as a swimmer, something that separates her from the rest of the state even as swimming evolves. “I have always been attracted to the competitive side of the sport,” Jones explains. “Now as I get older, I have been shifting my focus more towards technique. Every detail matters at this point. I find that exciting because the sport I have loved for so long is still changing.”
A state champion as a freshman at West Linn and canceled state championships in 2021, Jones has the opportunity to obtain state titles on Friday night in Beaverton. However, she also has opportunity to set state records in the 50 Yard Freestyle and 100 Yard Freestyle events, sitting on the cusp of adding those achievements to her resume. According to Jones, her greatest accomplishment has already happened to her, “I would say my proudest achievement would be being able to further my athletic career by swimming in college,” she said. “My largest goal before I leave for Georgia would just be to continue to drop time so I can set myself up for success at Georgia.” As like most athletes, Jones has had her fair share of influencers and role models who have helped her in the journey as a swimmer. “My parents have always been an inspiration to me inside and outside of the pool for their endless support,” she explains. “My club coach Emily Melina is someone I look up to on a daily basis. Emily helps me navigate through the rough patches of swimming and encourages me to be the best version of myself.”
Going from Georgia to Oregon and on the track back to Georgia, her family roots played a major role in her decision to become a Bulldog and return to the Deep South, “I chose UGA because they have a history of success and an amazing coaching staff, but ultimately I loved the team atmosphere,” she said. “Everyone there seemed to really want to work hard and swim their best. Not to mention academically it is a fantastic university. Since I was born in Georgia and most of my family lives there, UGA had a huge advantage from the start.” With such a distinguished resume and level of achievement, not to mention more to come the next two years, Jones has some wise words for other swimmers who have dreams in the sport, “Swimming has really taught me that not every day can be your best and that doesn’t define you as an athlete,” she expressed. “My advice to other girls would be to continue to work hard and stay positive. Just because you are not in the place you would like to be right now; does not mean you will never get there.”
Helena Jones will compete in the 5A state championships on Friday at the Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center in Beaverton, primed to shatter the 5A record in the 100 Yard Freestyle event and possibly the state record, along with a good shot at the 50 Yard Freestyle 5A and state records. She has flown under the radar as an athlete even with local media, but she is hitting the spotlight with as a powerful female athlete in the Oregon swimming community, and eyes will be on her coming up on Friday at the 5A Championships in Beaverton.