By Will Edwards
This article was originally published in Issue 9, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (February 18, 2016). Click here to view the entire issue.
It seems a rarity when he speaks—Robert Jones, the sophomore with the soft voice and the often straight face. It’s become a rarity, too, when Jones doesn’t win a race, perhaps his own way of making sure his competitors are more like him: quiet.
Jones started the indoor track and field season off with wins in the 60- and 200-meter dashes at the Lehigh Fast Times Before Finals meet, whooping up on NCAA Division I runners from Lehigh University, Lafayette College and the University of Pennsylvania. That performance earned him Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) and Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) D-III South Region Track Athlete of the Week honors.
Since then, he’s broken his own school record in the 55-meter dash, running 6.56 seconds, and as of Feb. 13, he ranks first in the MAC in the 60-meter (7.02) and 200-meter (22.68) dashes. Both those times qualify Jones for the ECAC Championships in Staten Island, N.Y., in March.
Jones won’t say it himself, but according to his coaches, he’s talented enough to go even further.
“The goal is, hopefully— if he’s healthy—to make [an NCAA] national push,” says sprints coach Joe Webster, who also noted Jones’ growth as a leader this season. “He’s been more consistent in the 60. Last year he started off pretty solid and then at MACs didn’t have the best day.”
Leading the way alongside Jones is senior Rob Lawler, the team’s top thrower. Lawler won the shot put at the Muhlenberg Invitational on Jan. 25 and was named the MAC Field Athlete of the Week for his effort. The accounting major has hit ECAC qualifying marks in the shot put and weight throw, and he sits in first and second in those events, respectively, in the MAC rankings.
Lawler, in his last semester at DeSales, says he’s trying to make the most of his time left on the team, and like Jones, he has lofty goals for himself.
“It’s been my goal since freshman year to win [MACs], but really what I’m looking forward to is trying to qualify for nationals in the weight,” he says. “I’ve spent the last seven years competing in track, and for it to come to an end is kind of scary. But I’m trying to enjoy it—I’d love to go out with two first-place finishes at MACs.”
Other Bulldogs expected to score at the MAC Indoor Championships Feb. 26-27 include sophomore JC Falcon in the high jump, an event he won both indoors and outdoors last year; junior Brad Kilheeney, a distance specialist who has run 15 minutes, 53.62 seconds in the 5,000-meters and 9:03.96 in the 3,000-meters this season; and freshman Patrick Ludlow, a Michigan high school state champion at 800-meters who has run 1:59.79 in the event so far this year, and who broke DeSales’ 500-meter school record in his first collegiate race, finishing in 1:07.41.
Relays will also play a crucial role in team scoring at the MAC Indoor Championships, with there being four of them over the two-day meet: the distance medley relay and the 4×200-meter, 4×400-meter and 4×800-meter relays. The DeSales men have finished fifth at the meet each of the last two seasons.
“The chemistry is a little different this year—we have a lot of younger guys,” says Kevin Drastura, a senior who has run on multiple championship meet relays and who will likely run in both the distance medley and 4×800 relays this year. “But this team has grown a lot closer over a short amount of time than I would have expected… Everyone seems to have each other’s back. We’re working well in workouts together, everyone’s always trying to push each other, so in the end I feel it will definitely work out for us.”