RICHMOND, Va. – With only a few meets left in their collegiate careers, the seniors of the Virginia Commonwealth University track & field program are doing their best to leave a legacy with the Black & Gold.
This past weekend added to that legacy as a slew of veterans led the Rams to outstanding showings at both the Vanderbilt Invitational and the James Madison Invitational on a busy weekend for the Black & Gold.
"At this point in the year, you always look for your seniors to really show their leadership and give it their all with the end of their careers on the horizon," Head Coach Jon Riley said. "This weekend was just another great example of how hard work pays off and it's just another step toward our goal, which will take place in a couple weeks with the conference championships."
In all, the Black & Gold claimed 27 top-three finishes and 10 victories between the two meets. VCU posted 14 different qualifying marks for the IC4As and ECAC Championships, which take place later this spring.
The performance of the weekend came from senior Quina Fortune (pictured, right), who scorched the track and her competition in the 200-meter dash at the Vandy Invite en route to a time of 23.38. That time not only won the event, but also puts her in among the top-10 200m times in the East Region this year. It would be a school record, but because of wind readings being above 2.0, it doesn't qualify.
Fortune wasn't done as she posted a second-place finish in the 100-meter dash, right behind teammate Dionna Hayes (pictured, left) . The duo posted times of 11.53 and 11.55 respectively, both of which are personal bests and rank in the top-25 times in the East Region.
That had to be it for Fortune, right? Think again. She then teamed with juniors Nicole Walters and Jazlynn Finney, as well as freshman Niamani Aduma to break an 18-year old school record in the 4x400 relay with a time of 3:46.70.
The record breaking continued in the 4x100 meter relay when Fortune, Finney and Aduma teamed with Hayes to post a time of 45.67
"We've talked all year about fine tuning the little things to get big results," Riley said. "We're starting to see that and hope to continue that in the coming weeks."
It wasn't much different on the men's side where the Rams dominated the sprints thanks to seniors DeAngelo Wilson and Donnie Seward. Wilson won both the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes with times of 10.61 and 21.36, both are career bests for the Richmond, Va. native.
Seward finished fourth in the 200-meter with a personal best of 21.78 and then went on to pick up a victory of his own in the 400-meter dash with a time of 47.91.
VCU's success was not limited to the track as junior Julia Anyaugo broke her own school record yet again in the discus throw, this time by over seven feet. Her mark of 157' 8" was good for third in the event. Anyaugo has broken the record three times this year and has now increased the school record by over 23 feet this year.
"Coach Tussing has done a great job of continuing to find new ways of improving our throwers skills and Julia is a true testament to that," Riley said. "She's an extremely hard worker and it's nice to see it starting to be big dividends."
Rounding out the strong performances at the Vandy Invite was the senior distance duo of Axel Mostrag and Walid Berkhedle, who finished first and third respectively in the 800-meter run with times of 1:51.75 and 1:52.28.
At the JMU Invitational, senior Joe Edwards won both the high jump (6' ½") and the triple jump (47' 5 ¾"). Sophomore Alex Hinton was the other Ram to post a victory in Harrisonburg, crossing the line in 1:58.07 to best his competition.
The Black & Gold will take a few athletes to the prestigious Penn Relays next weekend, but the majority of the squad will focus on the CAA Championships, which take place at VCU's Sports Backers Stadium on May 6-7.