RICHMOND, Va. – The VCU Track & Field program is riding high after a number of impressive individual and group performances from last weekend's Navy Invite.
VCU Head Coach Jon Riley took time this week to reflect upon a few student-athletes that have bolstered the team's efforts in recent meets and hold the top spot in the CAA in their respective events.
Redshirt sophomore Chaneka Perry (pictured right) captured her third first place finish of the season at the Navy Invite. The Newport News, Va., native cleared 12.03 meters in the triple jump, which set a new Wesley Brown Field House record and earned Perry a spot at the ECAC Championships. Perry's leap is the top mark of any CAA athlete to compete in the event this indoor season.
"Chaneka is an amazing talent," said Riley. "She is coming off of a year of inactivity and has worked extremely hard to get back to that level of performance she had for us during her freshman season; that year at the CAA championships, she placed second in both the triple jump and high jump, plus a third place finish in the 100 meter hurdles. Through our first three indoor meets she has set personal records in the high jump and 60 meter, and I don't think she is happy with any of her performances this year. We are currently working on some minor technical components of her hurdles and jumps. Once she comes close to mastering some of those things, there is no telling at how good she will become."
Junior sprinter Dionna Hayes owns the top time among all CAA athletes in the 60 meter dash, with her recent performance and victory in the event at the Navy Invitational. Hayes crossed the finish line in 7.62 seconds, besting James Madison's Jordan Simmons by .02 seconds for first place honors at Navy. The Bowie, Md., native's performance earned her a performance a trip to the ECAC Championship, eclipsing the qualifying time of 7.68 seconds.
"Dionna was the first recruit I signed as part of my original recruiting class at VCU," said Riley. "As a freshman, she placed second in the 100 meters and had a top eight finish in the 200 meters. Last year, she put together the top times in the 60 and 100 meter dash among all CAA competitors. She captured the ECAC title in the 60 meter dash by running the second fastest time of her career at the event. She was on her way to claiming the 100 meter dash title at CAAs that year before pulling up with about 10 meters to go in the race. After the entire summer of rehabbing her hamstring, she appears to be on track to having another successful year. She really surprised me by running that ECAC qualifying time, as she is still favoring her hamstring. We are going to watch her performances carefully and will have to strategically place her in races until she is ready to go at 100 percent."
Another student-athlete that has battled through injuries, but appears to be turning the corner and running at a high rate is junior sprinter Tyler Jackson. The New Orleans, La., native owns the top time in the 60 meter dash among all CAA student-athletes. At the GMU Father Diamond Invitational on Jan. 7th, Jackson ran the 60 meter dash in 7.01 seconds. Jackson still has some room to improve, needing to shave a .03 seconds off in order to qualify for the IC4A Championships.
"Tyler worked extremely hard in the offseason in getting physically strong and better at his technique," added Riley. "He came to us plagued by groin injuries, something which he worked through all last year and is now able to make it through workouts without pain this season. He is having a really good season so far and I believe can be one of the top sprinters in the conference if he continues to work hard and stay free of injuries. He holds the top ranking in the CAA in the 60 meters and set personal records in both the 60 and 200 meter dash this season. There is plenty of competition in each of those event, but I am sure he will represent VCU well when it's time to get in the blocks and compete against some of the best sprinters."
The Rams will look to continue their hot streak at the Captain's Invite hosted by Christopher Newport University this Friday and Saturday.