RICHMOND, Va. – The turn of the calendar means a new year, but it also means a new start for the VCU Track and Field Program. The Rams are about to embark on the 2013 season in a new conference, but with the same determined effort to compete.
VCU continues its season on Saturday with the Father Diamond Invitational in Fairfax, Va. at George Mason University after the holiday break.
"I think every coach in America worries when their athletes are out on their own," Head Coach Jon Riley said. "We have to get [the athletes] back in decent shape and it is kind of like starting over."
This season, however VCU will have a little added motivation. With the move to the Atlantic 10 conference the track and field program will face new opportunities and challenges. The biggest of those opportunities will be the Atlantic 10 Indoor Track & Field Championship, an event the Colonial Athletic Association did not offer.
"We have a goal and something to train for," said Riley. "It makes coming back early over the Christmas break a little easier to train and accomplish our goal in mid-February."
The Rams goal in their new conference is very simple. Win.
"My expectation is to win both men and women," said Riley. "We want our athletes to compete to the best of their ability and to accomplish what we can, but ultimately I want to win."
However, there will be some new challenges ahead of VCU in their new conference. With talented teams on both the men's and women's side it is tough tell what to expect from this season's A-10 competition.
"It is always tough to know how other teams recruited before getting out there, but once the season starts up we will see how things fall into place," said Riley.
Individually, sophomore Brandon Ruffin (pictured, left) returns after a standout rookie campaign in the throws. Ruffin placed in the top 10 in school history in the indoor shot put last season, and had an outstanding spring and fall. Sophomore George Moore, who runs the 400m and 500m races, also had a strong fall and could have a breakout indoor season.
On the women's side sophomore Kiara Porter is poised for another breakout season after qualifying for the World Junior Nationals last season. Porter and junior Niaimani Aduma (pictured, right) performed very well this fall for the Rams.
"We are trying to keep the momentum from the great fall we had," Riley said "The tough part is coming off of the Christmas break with people in shape."
Adding to those four athletes is a lot of young talent on the men's and women's side. Combined the two teams feature 47 athletes that are underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores).
"I am looking to have a very big year out of our young athletes, and seeing what they bring to the table once they get out there for the first time." Riley said.
There is not much time off between the indoor and outdoor seasons for the Rams, but with the new challenge of an indoor championship it sets up quite nicely for the Rams to ride all momentum into the outdoor campaign.
"Once we get through the indoor season it will set us up for a great outdoor season," said Riley. "We have good trainers and massage therapist and we need all of that because I beat them up the entire year and try to get them to recover the championship. This indoor championship with a goal set in mind will set us up perfect for outdoor. Everything is brand new and I think the athletes will be excited for the challenge."