Head coach of the cross country and track teams Julian Spooner said he has certain expectations for the Rams team this year. As the Colonial Athletic Association preseason poll predicts, he said the cross country team may not win, but he predicts a second-place finish at the end of the season.
VCU was ranked sixth in the CAA preseason poll.
“We’re not really going to win it. I’m a realist, I don’t like to think ‘we can do this’ if it’s not attainable,” Spooner said. “They pool all their money into distance, and they have 50 guys on their cross country roster. They’re really funded, we’re not.”
Due to a loss in players from either unexpected dropouts or costly injuries, the coach believes VCU simply doesn’t have the resources to earn the title, but has faith in the cross country team’s ability to reach its full potential.
1. William and Mary
2. Georgia State
5. George Mason
1. William and Mary
2. James Madison
3. Georgia State
“I believe the kids maybe give more credit to the polls than we do,” said Spooner. “They can score something on paper. And on paper you don’t have a chance, but that’s why they hold contests – because they never come out that way.”
“And that’s something great and exciting about the pressure in the events,” he added. “Some people step up, some people choke, and you don’t know how it’s going to happen.”
Back to the polls, Spooner said, “It’s the coaches who vote on them, and I don’t know what they’re looking at. I think some of them are self-serving; like they’ll vote for certain teams so they look better in their decisions.”
Spooner shared his thoughts on the team who was picked by the CAA preseason poll to take the title, William & Mary. He intimated that when William & Mary runs their practices, they exert their players to the point where some may burn out early and others might get injured. However, it doesn’t matter because since they have such a dense roster, they can afford their losses.
“We’re not going to lie to ourselves,” said Spooner. “In cross country, they’re going to win it. They’re continuing and everyone else is starting up.”
Touching more upon his developed style of coaching, he said, “William & Mary has distance and throws, we have people in everything. We don’t pool our money into one area. That’s why we do well in track, we spread it out. We have people in pretty much every event.”
Spooner has higher hopes for his CAA title-holding track team this year. He told the same story of straight-forward coaching but with a different ending.
He said, “we had 35 people last year, and out of that 35, we only had 19 score, and our main goal is getting that full 35 to score.”
The competition within the track team has a lot to do with its success as a whole.
Spooner said, “The track team has 50 people on the team, and the entire team is competing to be part of that 35.
“We got the title last year, and runner-up two years before. They came together last year. Obviously, People will be gunning for us,” Spooner said with a grin.
Spooner and assistant coach Ron Jones’s abilities to tap into their runners’ potentials are part of what makes the track team so successful.
Ron Jones ran for VCU before becoming an assistant coach. Spooner refers to him as ‘the legend’ who set records dating back to 1993 which have yet to be broken.
Spooner and Jones are actively involved with their runners, sitting down to discuss their goals together and discovering their potentials and helping them to achieve them.
“We have good kids, who are pretty receptive. We have fun but we work hard. It’s a big part of their lives and it’s very important to them,” Spooner said. “It’s not a once in a while thing, it’s an everyday thing,
Referring not only to himself, but to those on the cross country and track teams, Spooner said, “you have to enjoy what you’re doing and want to do it, be passionate about it, and don’t just go through the motions.”
He also discussed his pragmatic style of coaching practices. “Sometimes you’ll have certain things to get in shape for so I’ll put somebody in a position they don’t normally do,” Spooner said. “If you’re a little distance guy, we might run you longer to build your strength. We might run you shorter to work on your speed.”
“We try to get something out of each practice every week,” said Spooner.
The track team described Spooner as stoic, and said he is one to get the job done only to ask the same of
“In any sport, if you don’t believe in yourself and you don’t have confidence, then no one will believe in you. You have to be a little cocky,” Spooner said. “Some people are outwardly and inwardly confident. Some are showy, and some are quiet, but still get the job done.”
The men’s cross country team is set to participate in the Navy Invitational in Annapolis, Md., this Saturday.