He might not have heard them, but Cullen Jones had a huge cheering section Friday afternoon when he earned a silver medal in the men’s 50-meter freestyle swimming event at the Summer Olympics in London.
About 200 boys and their parents gathered at the Joseph Conlin Auditorium at St. Benedict’s Prep, the school Jones -- who earned a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics -- graduated from in 2002. He’s also won another silver in this Olympics.
South Orange's Thomas McCabe notes the school's athletic tradition in his book, Miracle on High Street: The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, N.J. The school is also the subject a grant-winning documentary, "Monks in the Hood," still in the works.
The boys, mostly freshmen, were at the school for their overnight orientation, but their parents were asked to stay a little longer than planned in order to watch one of America’s most famous Gray Bees make a dash for the gold, said Glenn Cassidy, who coached Cullen in swimming when he was at the school.
“He is a great kid,” Cassidy said. “I mean, he’s always been a great kid. He always had a lot of talent, he’s always showed a lot of promise, and that hasn’t changed.”
When Jones's name appeared on the projection screen moments before the race, the boys let out exuberant shouts, then reached an even higher pitch when it seemed as if he might have taken first in the event. Although there was a brief rumble of disappointment when Florent Manaudou of France was named gold-medal winner, the boys roared their approval when Jones's second-place finish became official.
“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.”