A crowd of nearly 250 gathered at Rauch Fieldhouse on Saturday, September 29 to celebrate the facility’s renovations and to honor alumnus Ken Jones ’83. The ribbon-cutting event was attended by current and former track and field athletes and coaches; and friends, family members, and fraternity brothers of Ken Jones, a former track and field student-athlete and member of Chi Psi fraternity, who passed away in May 2011.
Following a catered breakfast at Lehigh’s Mistele Family Pavilion, attendees gathered around the doors to Rauch Fieldhouse to witness its official reopening. Jeff Konigsberg ’83, a fraternity brother of Jones who helped make the event possible, introduced the four people who would cut the brown bow roping off the entrance: Matt Utesch, head men’s and women’s track and field coach, John Covert, former head coach, Bill Donahue, former assistant coach, and Karin Jones, Ken’s wife.
The front entrance to Rauch Fieldhouse prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Inside the fieldhouse, Coach Utesch described some of the renovations which had been completed over the summer. A particularly exciting change is the addition of 58,000 square feet of Mondo, the leading track surfacing which has been used in the Olympics since 1976. The surface will be better for the health of the athletes in lessening the risk of shin-splints, and will also make for a “faster” track. The formerly red track is now a spirited brown, light brown and white, and the turns have been widened to make them easier to run on.
Many of the renovations will make meets more enjoyable for athletes and fans alike. The fieldhouse has been outfitted with new, brighter lights, better for snapping photos and seeing competitors across the track. Fans will enjoy the new bleachers, which surround the start/finish line, high jump, pole vault and long/triple jump pits. They were aligned so that spectators could keep tabs on all of these events from one seating place. Unsightly nets which bordered the track were cut down, and the ten lanes on both straightaways will allow meets to run more efficiently.
Former cross country and track athlete Megan Hetzel ’12 came back to Lehigh for Young Alumni weekend and was excited to be able to attend the ceremony.
“Now Lehigh has this beautiful facility; something that represents what we are as a school,” she said. “We’ve never had anything like this, especially for track, and now we have something that’s very visible.”
Another impressive addition to Rauch Fieldhouse is the beautiful Ken Jones ’83 Wall of Champions & Record Holders. This project, and the fundraising for it, was led by Jeff Konigsberg and received support from Bill Griffin, Associate Director of Athletics at Lehigh, and Susan Vengrove, Director of Development within Lehigh’s Advancement organization. Backed by flying brown banners, two large boards display the men’s and women’s records for both indoor and outdoor track, visible to the athletes during every meet and practice held there. On either side, two flat screen TVs will display slides honoring every Lehigh Patriot League champion. The screens are also calibrated with the timing system in the facility, and will display results during indoor meets such as the Lehigh-Lafayette rivalry meet.
Junior captain Brooke Astor, who set the Heptathlon record last year and has her eyes on the indoor Pentathlon record, described what it was like to see her name up on the board for the first time.
“I think I was more excited for my parents to see the wall than anything else,” she said. “They are always so supportive of me and to show them that all of their support has led to my success is a great thing that I will always share with them. I have so much respect for my teammates and the athletes from previous years who hold those records so it is great company to keep.”
All of the names and marks are printed on movable tiles, which is fortunate as twenty-three records were broken by the men’s and women’s teams combined last year. One record which is permanent, however, is Ken Jones’s 1983 decathlon record, which also earned him the IC4A Championship during the same year. As the scoring system has since changed, Ken’s record will forever stand in a fitting display of respect to a phenomenal Lehigh athlete and person. Jones was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) in 2010 and passed away a year later at the age of 50.
Several of Jones’ loved ones, including his two former coaches, stepped forward and described a talented and hardworking individual who was admired by many of his peers. Jones was recruited to Lehigh for football but eventually chose to focus on track, which repaid him with a record which maynot have been broken even without the scoring change. He was a highly respected and much loved member of Chi Psi fraternity, which was demonstrated by the number of fraternity brothers who attended the ceremony. Graduating from Lehigh in 1983 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Jones went on to settle in California but made sure to return to Lehigh after receiving news of his diagnosis. A large plaque describing Jones’ life and story is mounted near the doors to Rauch Fieldhouse. Right next to it is a “Contributors” plaque listing the names of Ken’s family members, fraternity brothers, teammates, coaches, and friends who resourced the project.
Astor said, “He is such an inspiration and I hope that our team can use his story to work our hardest and to push ourselves to be our best, just like he did."
Story by Kylie Gray ‘16