Coach Tussing with a group of throwers at the 2012 CAA Championships
Entering his tenth year with the VCU Track and Field program, Coach Ethan Tussing (pronounced two-sing) looks to continue to develop athletes who are a consistent force at the conference level and among the nation’s elite.
The 2017 season may have been the Ram’s throwers strongest year in terms of quality depth and development. Sophomore Drew Hess led the way on the men’s side as he eclipsed the 12-year-old school record in the javelin with his throw of 62.09 meters (203’8), and he garnered a silver medal at the A-10 Championships. Junior Shawn Scornaienchi improved drastically in the shot put to take second in the event indoors and third outdoors at A-10 Championships. Sophomore Camora Sanders led the way for the women taking fourth indoors and third outdoors in the shot put and fifth in the discus. Sanders was supported by A-10 All-Rookie team members Makayla McGowan who had the furthest throws by an A10 freshman in the shot put 14.41 meters (47’3.5) and discus 45.75 meters (150’1) and Samantha Yankson who was the top freshman in the hammer with her throw of 46.99 (154’2). Junior Ashleigh Banks made great progress in the weight throw to finish fourth at A-10 indoors, qualify for her first ECAC appearance and move to #2 all-time at VCU.
Hess was also the standout thrower as a freshman for Tussing in 2016, as he qualified for USA Junior Nationals in the javelin having thrown 60.72 meter (199’2). He finished in ninth in the meet against the nation’s elite throwers under 20 years of age and took second that year at A-10s. Additionally against A-10 Competition, Andrew Hines finished second both indoors and outdoors in the shot put and grabbed third place in the hammer throw and fourth place in the weight throw. Sophomore Denise O’Rourke grabbed a silver medal in the women’s discus while senior Briana Ratchford took third in the shot put both indoors and outdoors. Sanders took fourth in outdoor shot and discus as a freshman. The throwers had more qualifiers for the ECAC/IC4A championships in the 2016 season then they had in all previous seasons combined.
The 2015 season saw Tussing’s throwers continue their outstanding streak of success. Three throwers qualified for the NCAA Championships Preliminary Round for the second year. Senior Brandon Ruffin made his second appearance in the shot put and classmate Ryan Coles competed in the discus. As a freshman, O’Rourke joined them in the women’s discus after becoming the #2 thrower in school history. O’Rourke’s qualification marked the fifth straight year a female discus thrower had advanced to the post season for VCU and the first time for a freshman. Additionally, O’Rourke qualified to the USA Junior National Championships in Eugene, Oregon. At the conference level Ruffin extended his streak of Atlantic 10 Championship Field Performer of the Meet to 4 after winning the award indoors and outdoors. His indoor campaign was highlighted by surpassing the 15-year-old A-10 conference record in the weight throw when he threw 19.88m for a 3 meter victory. Outdoors, he took the A-10 title in the shot put while Coles won the discus and the shot put indoors. The trio of Coles, Ruffin, and freshman Andrew Hines swept the medals in the A-10 indoor shot put.
Tussing pushed senior Jaleesa Williams to take her career to another level in 2014 when the senior achieved a mark of 57.97m (190’2) in the discus at the NCAA Preliminary Round. The mark stands as the furthest throw ever achieved by an American collegian on the east coast. Williams also participated in the shot put at NCAAs where she would break her own school record putting the shot to 14.96m (49’1) in her last competition in the event. She rode her prelim success to become the first thrower at VCU to qualify for an NCAA final when she finished 9th in the discus in Oregon garnering her second All-American accolade. Two weeks later she again threw over 57 meters to finish in 8th at the USA National Championships. Her regular season was highlighted at the A-10 Championship meet where she broke school records in the shot put, discus, and hammer while finishing first, first, and second respectively. Her mark in the discus of 53.42m (175’3) was a new A-10 Championship record and she was awarded Field Performer of the Meet for her efforts. Ruffin and Coles made their first appearance in the NCAA post season both contesting the shot put. This was the first time a male thrower had competed at this level for VCU. Additionally, Ruffin won both the shot and discus at the A10 Championship outdoors and the shot put indoors.
The 2013 campaign was highlighted by Williams becoming Tussing’s first All-American thrower. She earned her first spot in the championship meet in Oregon after finishing in 6th place in the NCAA Preliminary Round competition. Her PR in the NCAA championship prelims of 53.12m (174’3) was good enough for 12th on the day. Senior Jessica Williams captured discus gold at the A10 Outdoor championship while Jaleesa took the A10 title in the weight throw.
Tussing lead the Ram throwers to a marquee year in 2012, their last in the Colonial Athletics Association Conference. The men’s and women’s twelve throwers scored 90 points at the CAA championship meet outscoring all other teams’ in the throwing events and many entire teams in the meet. For her efforts at the CAA championship meet winning the shot and discus and taking third in the hammer, Jaleesa Williams was named the Women’s Most Outstanding Field Performer of the meet, the first such distinction for a VCU thrower. Her distance of 49.01m (160’9) in the discus secured her first appearance in the NCAA East Preliminary round. On the men’s side Ruffin had a standout freshman campaign in which he was awarded CAA Men’s Track and Field Rookie of the Year. Ruffin’s highlights included winning the CAA title in the men’s shot put, taking second in the discus, breaking the school record in the discus in his first competition, and qualifying for the USA Junior National Championships in the shot and disc where he finished 17th and 9th respectively.
The 2011 season was Tussing’s first with both the men’s and women’s throwers. Junior Julia Anyaugo highlighted the year when she qualified for the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds after her school record discus throw of 48.04m (157’8) ranked her in the top 48 of the eastern half of the country. This marked the first time in school history that a thrower had qualified for the NCAA post season.
In the 2010 season, the women’s throwers reached new levels of achievement under Tussing’s direction. Jaleesa Williams shattered the indoor school record in the shot put as a freshman and became the first ever thrower to qualify for the ECAC Indoor Championships where she finished 10th overall. Outdoors she finished up her amazing shot put season achieving All-CAA recognition with a third place finish at the CAA Championship. The discus was the team’s most improved event for the year with the school record being held by both Williams sisters and Anyaugo throughout the season. At the end of the season the record ended up in the hands of Anyaugo with a throw that propelled her to a second-place finish at the CAA.
In 2009 senior Natalie Duncan achieved the furthest shot put throw of the year in the CAA Conference when she crushed the previous VCU school record with a throw of 13.43 (45’7.75). She also placed 4th in the CAA championship meet that year. Anyaugo and Samantha Mosley as freshmen took 5th and 8th respectively in the discus at the CAA Championships to become the first VCU freshmen throwers to ever score at a championship meet.
Vast improvement was the story in 2008 when Tussing, then the interim head women’s track and field coach, led senior Kira Hauser and Duncan to improve their throwing distance in the shot put by more than three feet from their previous bests. In the process Duncan finished tied for 5th in the CAA championship meet with her first ever throw over 43 feet.
Tussing originally started as the women’s cross country and distance coach for the Rams in 2007 and worked with them through 2010. He guided the cross country team to its highest CAA conference finish in six years while simultaneously achieving their highest team GPA. His distance runners notched 5 school records, 2 All-Conference track accolades, and 1 All-Conference cross country accolade under his directions.
Prior to his arrival in Richmond, Tussing worked for six years with the prestigious Florida Gator Track & Field program in a variety of positions under the guidance of legendary head coach Michael “Mouse” Holloway. During his latest role at UF as an interning coach of men’s middle distance, his athletes excelled to achieve one All-American honor, six NCAA qualifying marks, and one USA Junior National Championship qualifying mark. He also assisted with sprints, hurdles, and relays where he mentored seven additional All-Americans and two SEC Conference Champions. Throughout his entire six-year time with the UF program Tussing was involved in the development of four NCAA National Track & Field Runner-up teams, one SEC Championship team, eight NCAA individual or relay championships, and 105 All-American honorees.
He got his start in coaching as a volunteer coach for the Gainesville All-Stars Professional Track & Field Club. Working with the club team he assisted in the guidance of World Champions John Capel and Kerron Clement, Olympic Silver Medalist Bernard Williams, World Championship Runner-up Derrick Atkins, and seven additional Olympians. He also trained football players in speed development in preparation for the 2006 NFL Draft.
Tussing, a native of DeLand, FL, graduated cum laude from the University of Florida in 2005 with a degree in Exercise and Sports Science. He is certified by USA Track and Field as a Level 1 Coaching Education Instructor and holds USATF Level 2 certifications in the Throws and Sprints, Hurdles, and Relays. He and his wife, Shannon, reside in Chesterfield with their son Rown.