Approximately 66 seconds into the 800 meter run at the Vanderbilt High School Indoor Invitational on Feb. 3, Colin Jones turned to his brother, Keaton, and gave him one of those nondescript head nods, the kind which tell a story in a second or less.
And that was all it took for Keaton, who about 20 seconds earlier had held off a pesky challenger in Lane 2 while his brother stood tall in Lane 1.
From there, it was about going for a personal best. The Memphis Jaguars Track Club pair, who had started running the 800 meter distance on a lark at 12 years old but had developed into one of the top mid-distance duos in the state -- and possibly country -- five years later, finished in a new US No. 1 time of 1:54.18 and a US No. 4 effort of 1:54.43, respectively.
Perhaps not coincidental was that fact that Keaton, who a few years earlier was making Colin play catch up but now it was the other way around, made it nearly impossible for anyone to pass in Lane 2, a strategy the brothers have employed on more than one occasion.
"They know their roles," said Yerritt Long, who coaches the Jones' on the Memphis Jaguars. "Whoever has inside, they have inside. The other doesn't drop to take inside. They work well. And actually as brothers, Keaton actually helps Colin, because if they work side-by-side, they make opponents run farther. Whoever runs that curve first, you get that lane and take it."
Now the stakes are only getting higher for the fraternal twins as they head to the University of Kentucky High School Indoor Invitational on February 17 in Lexington. They're looking to drop their best time yet, at 800 meters and as teammates in the 4x400. Both are scheduled to run at New Balance Nationals Indoor in March as well.
UK High School Indoor Invitational
When: February 17
Where: Lexington, Kentucky
How To Watch: Sign-Up To Watch LIVE on MileSplit
"I'm hoping to get some heat," Colin says of the field.
With a field that includes Brentwood Track Club's Brodey Hasty and a few more with legit speed, the race may offer explosive times. Can the Jones' go 1:52?
"When we pull away, we need someone to push us," Keaton said. "And we just have to hold our kick."
But as the brothers also traverse through their final season with the club and Houston (TN) High, more remains on the line. Both want to continue to drop their times in the 800m and 1500m, but neither are signed to run in college, and both have hopes at running at the Division I level.
Colin's dream school is LSU -- his friend, Cameron Cooper, currently is a freshman there and broke 1:50 at UK a year ago. Colin says he's texted the coaches at Georgia recently. And the brothers have also spoken to Southeast Missouri State, possibly as a package deal.
Long, who's coached the brothers for the past five seasons, knows the recruiting process can be difficult. He had started the Memphis Jaguars Track Club in 2000 to provide an outlet to his son, Cameron, who eventually signed with Southeast Missouri. But the club blossomed under he and his wife's wings and it continues to train young athletes in the southeastern Tennessee area.
When it comes to college, he's advised the brothers to keep everything in perspective. Big or small school, the choice has to be more than just about running.
"We always teach our kids, track is a means to get to college," he said. "Your job is to get to college to get an education and be successful. Being 1:48 in college doesn't mean anything, but track can get you an education."
It's no wonder why the brothers have a special bond with Long. They've connected with him over all these years of training. Five years ago, he barely let them on his AAU team, at the time telling their father, Henry, the duo was too slow.
"The times were pretty bad and I told him no," Long remembers saying.
But Henry persisted. He believed his sons needed another outlet beyond wrestling, and Long certainly could relate. He later agreed to let Colin and Keaton practice with the team. Henry didn't let the boys miss a practice. The rest was history.
"Everybody would complain and stop in the middle of workouts," Colin said. "Keaton and I would just keep working hard."
The success for the Jones' didn't come right away. In their freshman year, neither broke two minutes at 800 meters. But by his sophomore indoor campaign Keaton made a big step forward, going from 2:05.51 to 1:55.86. Colin still couldn't do it, though he did go from 2:06.76 to 2:00.33.
"We started pressing them a little more," Long said of the pair's training. "The times began to come down very good."
The brothers have largely hit their best times in the summer, when Long's training has focused on peaking at the AAU Junior Olympics. Last year as juniors, Colin finished second only to his friend Cooper in the 17-18 age group 800m, going 1:52.25. Keaton was third in 1:53.52. Only Colin was able to break into the top 50 times nationally.
"Our goal is still to hit 1:50 this indoor season," Colin says. "I still don't think anyone has pushed me yet."
Compared to his brother, Colin says he's the quiet one, the more reticent. In a recent interview, though, Colin dominated the conversation, perhaps indicating confidence that's beginning to shine through.
Long believes the brothers will at some point need to distance themselves from one another. On more than one occasion, he says, he's witnessed Colin having conversations with Keaton during competition at 800 meters.
"Colin has a tendency to look for his brother," Long said. "He's a little stronger than what he shows. But in just that hair you take to speak to each other, you could have gone home."
There may be a reason for Colin's inclination to keep his brother with him, though. He remembers the questions he got as a sophomore while he trailed Keaton.
"I know that if I do good, I don't want him to think less of himself," Colin said. "Sophomore year when he was faster and ran that 1:55, people would compare me to him and ask 'Why is he faster than you? You're basically the same person.' I just don't want him to deal with that, because I had to deal with that. We keep talking, because we want to push ourselves."
Perhaps then it's not a question of why or how, but when.
If one goes the other will follow.
"It's our senior year," Colin says. "We don't have any room for mistakes. I know he's capable of doing the same stuff as I do. We know we can do it together."
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Contact MileSplit National Content Producer Cory Mull at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @bycorymull