Former roommates and Hillsdale graduates in 2015, assistant coaches Maurice “Mo” Jones and Justin Fawley have returned this year as members of the men’s and women’s track and field coaching staff. Junior Kathryn Bassette, who has worked with both coaches, said she loves the dynamic they bring to the team and their close relationship.
“What makes me most happy about having them on staff is that they are best friends,” Bassette said. “They have a ton of fun together and that creates an environment for me to relax and have fun too.”
Jones was a three-time All-American while at Hillsdale, and a national champion in 400-meter hurdles in 2015. Fawley was an NCAA qualifier in the decathlon in 2014.
Being a student athlete has been a normal thing for Jones all his life. Ever since he could remember, he had played sports while balancing academics. This year is his 15th in track and field .
“Obviously it changed a little bit with the rigors of Hillsdale,” Jones said. “But it was just the same thing: get my studies in and show up to training and get the job done.”
Jones said he has many good memories from both running track and coaching the team. The good times, he said, are about the people, not specifically the sport.
“It’s not a particular race, it’s not a particular time someone ran extremely well,” Jones said. “I like the moments when you’ve been explaining something and you’ve tried several different ways of explaining it and attacking the problem and then finally it clicks and you can just see them do it…I think that’s what every coach looks for.”
When Jones was offered a position as an assistant coach, he wasted little time leaving his training group in Arizona to return to Hillsdale College.
“It was an opportunity to not only train with a coach that I’d had a lot of success with, but to also be back around the place I love and the team I love,” Jones said.
As a coach, he said he has goals for the team like winning and sending athletes to nationals, but he also looks for their development in their sport and attitude.
“Really what I’m looking for is that improvement from each athlete to be the best that they can that year, that race,” Jones said.
Outside of coaching, Jones is still in to outdoor and active hobbies, which he said changes from year to year. Lately he’s been in to shooting sports and hunting, but he also enjoys fishing and reading. In the past, he’s also tried to learn different languages and playing guitar.
“I would stick with the outdoorsman stuff right now,” Jones said.
Jones said while watching the athletes this year, he doesn’t think much has changed.
“Definitely the core seems to have gotten bigger, from what I’ve heard,” Jones said with a laugh, adding that the academic requirements for being on the team have “skyrocketed.” “The team’s gotten a lot smarter, but it hasn’t diminished our talent at all, which is what we’re looking for.”
He said there are a few differences year to year, but the students are very much the same.
“I just see a lot of kids trying to be the best they can for themselves and for their teammates, which is really what it was when I was here,” Jones said. “Feels like how I left it.”
Fawley, who graduated from Hillsdale with Jones, also said the college hasn’t changed much, aside from campus renovations, but the “caliber of athlete” has improved. Fawley had grown up as a student athlete; his focus was mainly on soccer and track, though he had played most sports by the time he went to college. He had always enjoyed being a student athlete, he said.
“It’s probably one of the best experiences,” Fawley said, adding that it was all about prioritizing and balancing class and training. “Being a student athlete here was a really great experience…just met a lot of my best friends here through athletics and through the school and helped me get a job here.”
Fawley said he had a lot of good memories from being a student athlete, one of his favorites being a semester when he and Jones roomed together and grilled out on the weekends on their front lawn.
“We met a lot of really cool people doing that because, you know, those people were walking home from classes, and we’d be like, ‘Hey do you wanna eat?’ and they’d just come over and eat with us,” Fawley said.
His goals for coaching stay “pretty constant,” he said, and he wanted to push athletes to do their best in not only sports but in becoming an adult with the right focus.
“If we can teach sort of moral lessons through athletics and if we can create a robust, resilient person through athletics, I think that’s one of the biggest things,” Fawley said. “I would probably say that that’s my biggest goal is helping people navigate the transitionary period in their life.”
Bassette said Jones and Fawley have a belief in the athletics program that will take it to the next level, and she hopes that “other track athletes will take advantage of their knowledge.”
“They’re just two guys really passionate about coaching, really in love with Hillsdale track and field, and really happy that they can do what they love together,” Bassette said.