Track star Jonas Motiejunas was the ultimate team player.
Aug. 12, 2010
ATLANTA - Track and Field it is very much an individual sport, but there are opportunities to show teamwork.
It's not surprising that Jonas Motiejunas would find one and help take it to unprecedented heights.
In the case of the Scottsville, Ariz., native, it was the 4x400 relay.
In his years at Tech (1994 through '99), that team won two national championships, four ACC championships and set a school record that still stands.
The Georgia Tech family recognized how special Motiejunas was in his years on The Flats and will show its appreciation on Oct. 15, by inducting him into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.
"It's something that I didn't really expect," said the Olympian and six-time All-American. "I heard rumblings about it. It's definitely an honor."
It's a well-deserved one if you ask his peers, who remember him as someone whose willingness to make teammates better extended beyond the other three members of his relay, but to anyone who wore a Tech uniform.
"Jonas was always respected on the team for his attitude and his integrity. He was just a very upstanding guy," recalled Beth Old, who will join Motiejunas in the incoming Class of 2010. "Jonas was always kind of the very cool guy on the team, but he would always be there if you needed anything. He would be the first person to help you out."
Old recalled an example of his thoughtfulness that occurred off from the track.
"I can remember when I came back [to campus] from Nationals, it was the last year before the Olympics, so there was dust everywhere, always. He had written [in the dust] on my car, 'Congratulations, All-American,'" Old said with a laugh. "At first I thought, 'Who wrote on my car?' Then I was like, 'Oh, that's cute.' He was a super-sweet guy, super nice, and super fast."
When he wasn't writing congratulatory messages in the dust he was leaving the competition in it.
Motiejunas and his relay mates were National Champions in the 4x400 in 1994 and '98 and took home ACC championships four times -- winning the 1994 and '98 indoor and outdoor titles. At the '98 indoor championships the quartet set a school-record of 3:06.00 which still stands.
Adding to the importance of the national titles was the joy of being able to share each with family members.
"The moment that I think about all the time was in 1994, when we ended up winning the Nationals in Boise," he recalled. "I just remember we finished, and we were all excited, and I remember looking up into the stands. It was a huge stadium. My dad ended up making the trip out there, and I remember standing there pointing to him saying, 'Finally, we won!' He was always one of the motivating people in my track career. Actually all sports."
Family served as motivation again in '98, in the form of twin brother, Tomas, who ran with Jonas on the relay.
Running with Tomas, who Jonas joked was his younger brother, "but only by seven minutes," enhanced his experience at Tech, proved beneficial to both of them on the track and proved them atypical of many sibling rivals.
"Originally everyone would always ask us, 'How was it competing against your brother? Was it something extra that you wanted to beat your brother?'" said Motiejunas, who also was ACC champion in the 800 meters at the 1999 Outdoor meet. "But it wasn't really a rivalry. We really pushed each other, and it was more like a team thing, even if we were running against each other. So I would say it was great having someone like him. We would push each other back and forth."
After graduation, Jonas represented Lithuania at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, but had to withdraw after suffering an injury in the early rounds of competition. He subsequently retired from the sport.
Today, Motiejunas is a sales consultant for Southeastern Paper Group. He lives in Acworth, with wife, Karen, and two children, Alena and Algis, who he says, "have got the genes for [running]. They've got good form."
He still enjoys running -- he is scheduled to do a half-marathon in October -- and recently found time to complete his master's in Business Administration from Georgia Tech's Executive MBA in Management of Technology Program. Coming back to study at Tech brought back some pleasant memories.
"I really enjoyed going and just feeling that Tech pride," he said. "There really was no question that I wanted go back to Tech and build on the relationships and the networking that I had. Hopefully I'll be able to eventually give back more to the program."
Once a team player, always a team player.