Olympian Cullen Jones may be making a splash in London with two silver medals thus far in these Olympic games. But Jones made a splash in Cranford long before he swam to Olympic glory.
After his gold medal effort on the 4x100 freestyle relay in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Jones returned to Cranford to practice with Coach Lou Petrozziello and current Gators (see photo).
Jones was visiting as part of his efforts with the USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash Program, which is dedicated to helping minorities learn how to swim.
The Jersey Gators, based in the Centennial Avenue Pool in Cranford, is a competitive swim program for ages 6-18. Gators can be found among New Jersey's Top 50 swimmers for men and women across various age groups and events. Some graduates continue on to compete at the collegiate level for top Division I swim programs.
Jones, who spent a large portion of his childhold in Irvington, has other New Jersey connections.
Jones also swam with the Metro Express club team at the Jewish Community Center in West Orange, and he attended St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, graduating in 2002.
About 200 students and parents from St. Benedict's watched Jones on television on Friday afternoon when he earned a silver medal in the men’s 50-meter freestyle swimming event at the Summer Olympics in London. (Jones also won silver as part of the U.S. 4x100 freestyle relay that finished second to France on Sunday.)
“It’s a great opportunity for him and for us,” said Jamal Osborne, a 16-year-old student. “He put us on the map, and we thank him for that.”
The same could be said for the members of Jersey Gators.
For more information on the Jersey Gators swim team call 908-709-7260.