RICHMOND, Va. – The VCU Track and Field program is ready to kickoff its outdoor season with the annual Ram Invite set for Saturday, March 16 at Sports Backers Stadium.
This year's event features Delaware, George Mason, Fordham, Towson and Rider among others and it takes place starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
VCUAthletics.com caught up with Head Coach Jon Riley (JR) to talk about the Ram Invite and the upcoming outdoor season.
VCUAthletics.com: The outdoor season kicks off this weekend with the Ram Invite, how excited are you for the chance to have a meet at Sports Backers Stadium?
JR: It is just a typical meet for me. We are just trying to get back in shape after spring break. This will tell me where we are after having two weeks off from hard training and get us back into the swing of things.
VCUAthletics.com: What are some of the advantages of getting to host a meet at your home track?
JR: I don't think there are any advantages. We all have to get on the track and run that 200-meter or 400-meter distance. This is just preparation for getting us to where we need to be in May when it's time for our conference championship.
VCUAthletics.com: The Ram Invite has become an annual event here at VCU, what makes the meet special for the track and field team?
JR: It is always great to have a meet at home so your hometown folks can come and watch you run. Parents and classmates can come and watch you run. It is just like having a home basketball game. Family and fans can come out and see what you do on a weekly basis. I think giving our fans a chance to see us run is very exciting for our student-athletes.
VCUAthletics.com: The meet will also serve as senior day, what has this senior class meant to your program?
JR: This particular senior class is special because they are my first senior class that I have personal recruited. They are spearheading the program and have helped take the program to the next level. They are a new type of athlete that VCU hasn't seen here in the past. It has been a journey, they have seen the lows and have enjoyed the highs. They are in a position to leave here on top and hopefully they can leave here is a champions.
VCUAthletics.com: This year your program has adopted the motto of FINISH what does that mean?
JR: Finishing in every race is tough. Our goal this year is to finish everything strong. We fell short last year in the CAA Championship because I felt that we didn't finish as well as we could have. Our motto for this entire year has been to finish. We have put a lot of emphasis on finishing races, finishing projects in class, finishing everything you start with a sense of urgency.
VCUAthletics.com: The women's team had a strong performance and a third place at the Atlantic 10 Indoor Championship, how do you think that momentum will carry into the outdoor season?
JR: I think they are hungry, but I have to keep an eye on them because sometimes they get a little cocky. We are not practicing very well on the women's side right now. We need to step it up a little bit in get a sense of urgency. We are so close to being at the top, but we have to have a sense of urgency to finish at the Atlantic 10 Championships.
VCUAthletics.com: After seeing the women's team during the indoor season, what are your expectations for the outdoor season?
JR: My expectations for them are to finish on a high note. Again to finish in the top three is our goal, but our ultimate goal is to win the championship. I think this particular group of young ladies are very capable of doing some extraordinary things. They just have to be consistent and continue to work hard.
VCUAthletics.com: The men's team placed seventh at the A-10 Indoor Championships, but you felt they could have done better, do you think they have a chip on their shoulder coming into the outdoor season?
JR: Those guys do have a chip on their shoulders. We figured they would finish in the top five, but seventh was kind of disappointing. The guys are working hard and working extremely better as a team. In the outdoor season there are less events and we are capable of scoring more points in the specialized events.
VCUAthletics.com: What are your expectations for the men this outdoor season?
JR: I feel like we can have top three finish with the men as well. It is going to take a lot of work and its going to be tough. We may have to over-achieve, but we are capable. Everyone is going to have to step up to help us finish in the top three.
VCUAthletics.com: Overall both programs still have a lot of young talent on them, how does the indoor season help your athletes get ready for the spring?
JR: Indoor introduced the young athletes to elite competition. Typically we see the best of the best in the indoor season. The younger athletes are used to succeeding at the high school level, but now they understand that Division I Track and Field is no joke. It can prepare them mentally or breakdown and does both sometimes and you have to overcame that. However, we have a great group of young athletes that are determined to succeed. The indoor season against tough competition has really inspired them to be the best they can be.
VCUAthletics.com: Last season, you had some athletes qualify for the NCAA Track and Field Championships, how does that help motivate your athletes to get back and go further this season?
JR: It has inspired quite a few kids to work harder this summer and winther. Sophomore George Moore has come back and had a great indoor season as well as classmate Ryan Coles had a great indoor season to name a few. They are inspired to do well and the sky is the limit for a lot of our athletes. They know we are giving them an opportunity to showcase their talents on the highest level and it's their job to take advantage of it.