RAMS TURN HEADS, FINISH FOURTH AT CAA CHAMPIONSHIPS

FAIRFAX, Va. – There are times during college athletics when words can't exactly explain how special the moment was.

Saturday at the Colonial Athletic Association Championships brought one of those moments for the Virginia Commonwealth University women's track & field program. After finishing in the bottom three at the conference meet during the past four years, the Rams burst onto the scene in 2010 with a fourth place finish, just five points out of third place.

"I'm not sure how to put it into words about how proud I am of this group of young ladies," Head Coach Jon Riley. "They had a huge pay day and withdrew all the money out of the bank that we had put in all fall and spring."

The Black & Gold showed an ability to score in every area with points in 14 different events, compared to scoring in just seven last year.

Leading the way was a trio of freshmen in Dionna Hayes (Bowie, Md.) (left), Chaneka Perry (Newport News, Va.) (top) and Jaleesa Williams (Virginia Beach, Va.) (right). All three tallied multiple top-five finishes to score big points for the Rams.

Hayes started the weekend off with a second-place showing in the 100-meter dash (11.84) then posted a personal best and ECAC-qualifying time of 24.01 in the 200-meter, good for fifth-place. To finish off her scoring at the meet, the youngster ran the anchor leg of VCU's 4x100 meter relay, which finished fourth. In all, she had a part in 17 points for the Rams.

Accounting for 20 points on her own, Perry may have been the biggest star for the Black & Gold with three different top-three finishes. Her weekend began with a personal best and ECAC-qualifying time of 14.16 in the 100-meter hurdles. It continued in the high jump with a leap of 5' 3", good for another third-place finish. Her best finish came in the triple jump, where her mark was 39' 10 ¾" slotted her second in the event.

Williams rounded out the outstanding freshman trio with a school record in the shot put, 45' 5 ¾", which placed her third in the event. She then tallied five more points for VCU in the discus with a personal best and ECAC qualifying heave of 142' 4 ¼".

"Yes we did have some very good individual highlights, but this was a total team effort to move from last to the conference to fourth in just one year," Riley added. "We scored in almost every event we entered and I can't say enough about my assistant coaches and the job they did in getting these athletes prepared for this weekend. To have the athletes respond the way they did, it's outstanding."

The total team effort can easily be seen by just one glance at the results.

Sophomore Julia Anyaugo (Washington, D.C.) set a new school record, tallied a personal best and qualified for ECAC's with a throw of 143' 4 ¾" in the discus, good for second place and eight points. Classmate Nicole Walters (Orange, Va.) posted yet another personal best in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:11.84, good for fourth place and five points.

Redshirt freshman Stephanie Newing (Virginia Beach, Va.) tallied five points in the pole vault, clearing 11' 7 ¾" and tying her own school record. Sophomore Jazlynn Finney (Leesburg, Va.) also tallied five points with a fourth-place finish in the long jump, leaping 18' 8 ¾". Classmate Rachel Montague (Marlton, N.J.) posted a personal best and recorded an eighth place finish in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:08.21.

"I'm really happy that we were able to send out our seniors on a high note," Riley said. "They went through three years of finishing at the bottom, while serving under multiple coaches. Through their tremendous leadership and work ethic, we were able to move up to a very respectable fourth-place finish. I can't thank them enough."

Sernarra Archie (Winston-Salem, N.C.) (left) led that senior class which Riley spoke of with multiple scoring performances. In the triple jump, her leap of 38' 7 ½" notched five points and a fourth-place finish. She then tallied two more points in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 14.62. Fellow seniors Whitney Key (Goochland, Va.) and Karise Baxter (Norfolk, Va.) were outstanding leaders for the young Rams at the championship meet.

The Rams now have two weeks before heading to Princeton, N.J. for the ECAC Championships on May 14-15.

View: Mobile | Desktop