RICHMOND, Va. – The VCU Track and Field team wrapped up its regular indoor track season this weekend at the Villanova Invitational in Staten Island, N.Y. As the team looks forward to the Atlantic 10 Indoor Track and Field Championships, distance coaches Nicole Cook and Joseph Murray took the time to discuss their philosophies, preparation, and hopes for the postseason and upcoming outdoor season.
How would you describe this particular group of athletes? How are they unique?
Nicole Cook: This particular group of athletes is definitely the most talented group of athletes that I've had together at one time. They are unique in that they are all driven to get better and want to achieve a higher level of success.
Joseph Murray: This particular group of runners consists of two groups including a group of veteran Mid-Distance runners (800-1600m) and a group young Long-Distance runners (3000 - 5000m). This is pretty unique in that we have to re-evaluate what we may have done in years past for our current veterans since the long-term goals of some of our freshmen are little different. For example, our young folks not only want to excel on the track but also in cross country. In years past we may have used cross country as more of a preparation for track, but now we need to take a deeper look at the training/racing schedule to make sure our longer folks can compete at high level for a longer period of time. Ultimately, these challenges will make us better coaches and a better team.
Can you describe your event group and the goals you have for your athletes this year?
JM: We specifically work with the mid and distance runners (800m up to 10,000m). Our goal is to help the greater team, men and women, win the A10 Championship in indoor and outdoor. Last year, the women won outdoor with the help of our 800m women contributing points. However, we want to bring in points in all of our possible events. We have a strong group of freshmen and returners this year, so we know it 100% feasible, its a matter of execution at this point.
Describe your preseason preparation. Did you do anything different for your athletes this year compared to other years you have coached?
JM: This year's preseason preparation consisted of some higher volume workouts/training and consistent lifting in the weight room since we knew our athletes weren't going to open with their main event until ETSU. Differently from years past, we tried to keep our longer runners off of the track for some of their workouts. We took them over to Libby Hill for some hill circuits and did some up-tempo runs along Monument Ave. These strength oriented workouts should provide a solid base for some of the later season track workouts.
Nichelle Scott and Emily Dyke appear to be leading the way early in distance events. How do you motivate them to be leaders for the team?
NC: I motivate them by giving them positive feedback and openly communicating with them on what is expected of each of them. They know they are leaders so that has been the good part of really trying to find out how they can be a good model and vocalize their leadership capabilities with their other teammates. I think keeping them positive and upbeat has helped them maintain their leadership capabilities and being able to give their experiences to the group as a whole.
What expertise does coach Joseph Murray bring to the table and what do you think he adds to the program?
NC: Coach Murray brings his expertise in the longer distances coming from a different type of program. Coach Murray brought a very compassionate side to the program, where as I'm a little tougher and he would be the comforter for the athletes. I think he has been able to really connect to the athletes which has been very helpful, as well as his eagerness to recruit.
How has working with Coach Cook enhanced your coaching ability?
JM: Coach Cook has been a great mentor and coaching companion. We bounce ideas off of each other all the time preventing our distance program from getting stale, allowing us and the students athletes to grow. Outside of practice, Coach Cook has taught me many administrative responsibilities including meet entries, recruiting, practice logs, and handling of gear.