Bailey Jones, a senior who competes in the triple jump for Cal Poly has encountered adversity throughout his life but has refused to let those hardships define him. The Mar Vista, California native was diagnosed in middle school with alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition that can cause hair loss. The disease, which can flare up at any time and without notice, dramatically accelerated during Bailey’s freshman year at Cal Poly in 2018. It was then he made the courageous decision to shave his head.
“It was kind of a liberating experience being able to shave my head and just let it be out there that I had this condition. It’s something I’ve dealt with and it’s part of my journey,” said Bailey. “The more you put something out there, the more you must be OK with it. Shaving my head was a symbol of accepting the full reality of what I was going through.”
Following a successful freshman season on the track, Bailey’s sophomore campaign was cancelled by the pandemic. Stress can exacerbate autoimmune diseases, and COVID was no ordinary stressor on Bailey’s physical and mental health. In 2021, he was diagnosed with alopecia universalis – a condition which leads to the loss of all his hair. Despite the worsening of his condition, he set a personal best leap of 48 feet, 8 inches in the triple jump at the Big West Conference championships to place fourth.
After an impressive fourth-place finish in the triple jump at the 2021 Big West Conference Championships, Bailey entered the 2022 spring season with high hopes, but then the injuries started to mount. First it was tendinitis in his knee. Then after nearly completely recovering, he strained his right hip flexor, forcing him to miss the first handful of meets. After rehabbing again, Bailey suffered his most serious injury, a grade 3 right ankle sprain which cost him five weeks of competition. And finally, to add to his personal pain, Mark Conover, Cal Poly’s Director of Track & Field and Cross Country passed away during this time.
The injury setbacks Bailey suffered also intensified his passion for athletic training. After completing the 2023 spring track season at Cal Poly, he will head to Louisiana State University (LSU) to pursue a master’s degree in athletic training. In a sense, he has the challenges he has faced to thank for the realization that athletic trainers play an essential role not just in a young athlete’s physical health, but in their mental wellbeing too.