In 2016, American sprinter Cullen Jones narrowly missed out on a 3rd Olympic Games appearance, finishing 3rd in his signature event, the men’s 50m freestyle. At the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Jones, the reigning Olympic silver medalist in the event from London, found himself just .23 out of a spot on the U.S. roster for Rio, finishing behind winner Nathan Adrian and eventual gold medalist Anthony Ervin.
Leading up to Omaha, Jones trained under U.S. Olympic Women’s Head Coach David Marsh as a high-profile member of SwimMAC Team Elite alongside close friend Ryan Lochte. Although Madison Kennedy, Katie Meili and Time Phillips, among others, remain, several members of the squad have since moved on, with Lochte headed West to California, Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace taking time off at Auburn and Roy Burch outright retiring.
For his part, Jones has decided to make a training base move himself for 2017, essentially moving his career in a full circle. The 32-year-old is returning to his roots, joining the Wolfpack Elite squad at NC State University, his alma mater. Jones competed as part of the Wolfpack as a student-athlete from 2002-2006, becoming a four-time ACC Champion and 2006 NCAA 50m freestyle Champion in the process.
Arriving in Raleigh just 2 weeks ago, Jones is training alongside ACC champion and Lithuanian record holder Simonas Bilis under NC State Associate Head Coach Todd DeSorbo. Right now, just the two elite sprinters comprise the Wolfpack Elite squad, but coaches say additional athletes may join in the future. No word at this point as to what meet Jones will use as his return to competition and potential run for a World Championships roster spot.
Below is a social media post from Coach DeSorbo, giving us a taste of how quick a Bilis/Jones practice is on a daily basis.
1PACK 1GOAL WOLFPACK ELITE @SBilis @CullenJones pic.twitter.com/gV8kYcQuUp
— Todd DeSorbo (@ToddDeSorbo) January 20, 2017