In his first season of collegiate track, freshman Jonathan Bennett has already made a place for himself in Lehigh’s history books by nearing and breaking several Lehigh records.
In a dual meet against Lafayette on Jan. 29, he recorded the second-fastest 60m hurdles (8.18) and third-fastest 60m sprint (6.95) in school history. His first place finish in the 200m (22.32) placed eighth all-time as well. Despite accomplishing these feats, Bennett was unsatisfied with his performance.
“I wasn’t happy,” Bennett said. “I came in telling myself ‘I’m gonna break this (the 60m hurdle) record’ and I missed it by just hundredths of a second.”
On Feb. 12, just three meets later, Bennett broke the 60m hurdle school record with a time of 8.12.
Bennett said his competitive spirit developed at a young age. Growing up a basketball player, he said “Race”, the 2016 film about Jesse Owens, sparked his interest in track and field.
“After watching that movie, I tried out sprinting and hurdling just like (Owens) and I ended up really liking it,” Bennett said.
At Hanford High School in Richland, Washington, Bennett became the No. 1 ranked 110m-hurdler in the state of Washington, maintained a 3.70 GPA and was a member of the national honor society. It didn’t take long for Bennett to catch the attention of Division I programs.
“When we looked at Jonathan (Bennett) in the recruiting process, we knew right away he was going to come in and make an impact,” Lehigh assistant coach Brooke Astor said. “His times were faster than most of the guys we had recruited in the past.”
Bennett received attention from schools ranging from local colleges in Washington state to Patriot League schools on the East Coast. Bennett said he decided on Lehigh because it is a Division I program with strong academics.
He said both of his parents do civil engineering, which he also wanted to study in college. He explained that this influenced his decision to consider Lehigh.
However, attending Lehigh meant that Bennett would move thousands of miles from his hometown in Washington.
“Unlike some of the people here, I can’t just go home during the weekends,” Bennett said. “Everybody in my family is pretty far away.”
Bennett said the transition to college life has been better than expected. He said making friends was no issue since he shares a residence with many of his teammates.
One of Bennett’s closest friends is fellow freshman teammate Patrez Thomas. The two met on a recruiting call before the start of the season and decided to live together.
“Jon’s a really good friend and a great competitor,” Thomas said. “He’s just fun to be around. When it comes to practice and competition, you can tell he’s focused.”
To cap his regular season, Bennett achieved three first-place finishes in the dual meet against Lafayette.
Bennett was awarded Patriot League Rookie of the Week for his efforts — an honor that caught Bennett by surprise.
“I saw that thinking ‘Oh! This award exists?’” Bennett said. “To be honest I’m kinda new to all of this.”
After breaking the 60m record, Bennett said his biggest goal is to consistently improve and find success with the team as they head toward the Patriot League championships, which begin on Feb. 26.