RICHMOND, Va. – With the 2011-12 athletic calendar complete for VCU, we here at VCUathletics.com thought we would try to recap what was a year full of thrills, excitement and another year of growth for the movement known as Ram Nation.
After a long debate, some wrestling matches and name-calling, our crew came up with the top-25 stories from VCU Athletics in 2011-12, which we will unveil one-by-one of the course of the next 25 business days (Monday-Friday).
If you have any thoughts or comments, our Twitter handle is @VCUAthletics, we’d love to hear from you.
Today, we look at #23 on our countdown.
#23 - Trio of Men's Track throwers set new standard of
Just two years after being combined with the women's track & field program under Head Coach Jon Riley and his staff, a trio of men's throwers used the 2011-12 campaign to set a new standard of success for the VCU men's track & field program.
Junior Frank Afriyie and freshmen Brandon Ruffin and Ryan Coles put together the best season in VCU throws history with double-digit victories, junior national qualifyiing marks and a boatload of medals. The trio all have their names up and down the VCU top-10 lists and will have plenty of more chances to take over even more in coming years.
All in all, on the season, the trio collected 10 victories, 27 medals, one school record, 11 school top-10 performances, one CAA champion, three CAA medals, 41 CAA points, seven IC4A qualifying marks, one All-East Performance, and two USA Junior National qualifying marks.
"This group of guys was the cornerstone to our team this year. They showed up at every meet we went to and competed hard as can be seen from their career victories and medal totals for the year," Assistant Coach Ethan Tussing said. "Frequently one would stop the other from winning the competition on any given day. As such they had a ton of success this year and improved throughout with many of our best performances coming at the end of the year when they matter most in championship meets. We will look to build around them as we head into the A10 next year and have expectations of their continued growth and leadership potential which can only help us grow as a team."
#24 – The Passing of VCU and golf legend, Jack
On April 18th, Ram Nation lost one of the true characters of its history. Not only did Ram Nation lose him, but the entire golfing community lost a "legend" in former VCU golf coach Jack Bell, when he passed away at his home in Hanover.
Bell served as the head coach of the Rams from 1982-1999 and established the Black & Gold as one of the premier golf programs on the East Coast. During his tenure, VCU won 10 regular season championships, five conference tournament championships, numerous top-40 rankings and three CAA Coach of the Year awards.
"Other than my parents, there was no one that did more for me to get me where I am today in the golf world than Jack Bell," VCU Head Coach Matt Ball said. "He loved the game and was willing to move heaven and earth to work with anybody who really wanted to improve their golf game."
With the Rams, he coached three All-Americans in Jerry Wood, John Rollins and Reg Millage. Rollins has been on the PGA TOUR for over 10 years and has made over 16 million dollars in career earnings.
"It is a sad time to lose such an ambassador for the game," Rollins said. "Coach Bell was such an important part of my golf career at VCU. He taught me so many things about the game that I still apply today as a professional. He was such a motivator for me and pushed me to become the best that I could be. He meant a lot to me and my family and I will miss him dearly."
#25 – Final Four Banner Night/Unveiling of the Tommy J. West Club
Only once before had a VCU basketball opener sold out and that was the first game inside the Verizon Wireless Arena back in 1999. However, this was different, this was a special night.
With a crowd jammed full of black and gold, the Rams unfurled the Final Four banner from the rafters of the Siegel Center, commemorating one of the most historic NCAA Tournament runs in the history of college basketball by the Rams in 2011-12.
In addition to new decorations hanging from the ceiling, the Siegel Center saw its new addition unveiled as the Tommy J. West Club opened its doors for the first time.
The 15,000-square foot renovation and expansion provided the Siegel Center’s second level with a complete facelift and includes luxury suites, a 120-club seat balcony, renovated offices and a sparkling new lounge. Completed entirely through private donations of $3.4 million, the initiative has helped reshape the way fans, donors, coaches and student-athletes view VCU Athletics now and in the future.