Competing and Computing

March 30, 2012

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

You might think that Perron Jones has a need for speed given his affiliation with NASCAR and the fact that he is a sprinter at Georgia Tech.

Really, though, the junior from Evans is propelled chiefly by a thirst for knowledge and experience.

He’ll be busy today as an athlete at the Yellow Jacket Invitational as he competes all day at the George C. Griffin Track & Field. In the back of his mind, though, he’s often computing.

Jones had a pretty good idea by the end of his junior year at Evans high that he wanted to go into computer science, and that’s his major now. When he interned last summer with NASCAR in Daytona Beach, he acquired a greater appreciation for a sport that he had known nothing about and – more importantly – more knowledge and experience.

While working in IT in Daytona Beach, Jones wrote an application that helped/helps NASCAR with some inventory tasks, and saved man hours in the process.

That got him to thinking: “I’d like to be a software engineer,” he said. “I’d like to get into the programming as far as mobile applications, cell phones.”

That’s down the road. Short term, Jones is maintaining a 3.37 GPA and running like the wind.

Last winter he set a Tech record in the 60-yard dash with a time of 6.77 seconds, and finished sixth in the ACC Indoor Championships in the 200 meters. Today, he’ll run the 100, 200 and 4×100-meter relay at the Invitational (field events start at 10:30; track events at 12:30).

At about the same time Jones began to figure out that computers could be a big part of his future, he also began to see that track could serve as a vehicle to get him there. He began competing as a freshman at Evans High not with the idea of one day being a star and leading his school to its first region championship, but as a way to make him a better football player.

Jones was a cornerback. “I thought I should run track to get faster for football,” he said. “Then, it started totally reversing around.”

By his junior year, when he starting looking into colleges, colleges had begun looking into him – as a track athlete. “Plus, I’m like 145 pounds so football wasn’t really that serious,” Jones said. “It worked out in my favor.”

Indeed. Although Jones still likes to watch football, he said he doesn’t miss it.

“Not really because I really enjoy what I do now. I’m surrounded by great people. The personal relationships that I’ve developed . . . I’m really satisfied. I like this sport because it allows me to focus on my academics.

“Georgia Tech develops a way of thinking … just developing the habit of working extremely hard and getting used to it. I have a couple friends who have moved on and work for Microsoft, and they say, ‘Man, this is not nearly as hard as Tech.’ It develops character.”

Admission is free at the meet today and so is parking. If you go, by sure to look out for freshman pole vaulter Nikita Kirilov. He set the school indoor record last winter, set the school outdoor mark in his first meet, and then bettered it recently (17 feet, 4.5 inches). Comments to stingdaily@gmail.com.

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