Jones, who grew up in Irvington before attending North Carolina State University, won a gold medal in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and has already added a silver medal in the same event at the 2012 London games. The Irvington Municipal Pool was renamed in his honor in 2008.
Seton Hall University Professor of Organic Chemistry John Sowa, Ph.D., became involved with the Cullen Jones Aquatic Center several months ago by volunteering through the Make a Splash Foundation, a swimming lesson and safety program sponsored by the USA Swimming Foundation. As it turns, Jones is program's chief athletic representative and also happens to be from Irvington.
Sowa worked with a number of officials from the Township of Irvington, including Mayor Wayne Smith, to coordinate a pep rally supporting Jones as he goes for gold at the London Olympics.
Sowa also met with Seton Hall assistant men's and women's swimming coach Kara Lennon, about representing the Pirates at the event, which she attended along with Seton Hall Coordinator of Student-Athlete Development and Special Projects, Melanie Calderwood.
"I have to thank Kara and Melanie for all of the help that they gave and all of their enthusiasm," Sowa said. "It was great to have some friends from Seton Hall there. The pep rally did a great job of cheering on Cullen Jones and also bringing attention to the Irvington Aquatic swimming program, encouraging more kids to take swim lessons."
The pep rally got underway around 1 p.m., coinciding with Jones' silver-medal swim in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay. After games and giveaways, which included Seton Hall gear highlighting the Pirates' swim program, there was a series of swim races branded, "Who is going to be the next Cullen Jones?"
Kids swam distances ranging from 12.5 yards to 50 yards, and there was also a celebrity race and relay. In the celebrity race, former 200-meter butterfly world-record holder Craig Beardsley, a resident of Chatham, N.J., competed against Lennon in a 50-yard freestyle race, with the Seton Hall coach coming away with the win.
After all of the festivities the group recorded a cheer for Jones and everyone signed a banner to ship to him in London, as he competes later this week in the 100-meter freestyle.
"I think the kids really enjoyed it, we did some nice giveaways with Seton Hall t-shirts and bags and the kids like having something close to home to cheer for," Lennon said.
"This is one of the most important things that we can do as adults and parents and that is help Cullen Jones keep this momentum going to make it a part of our lives and encourage the safety behind it," Lennon added. "That is really what it is about, not training superstars but teaching life-saving skills. I think this drive he is making is incredible and it is making a difference."